Nuclear Physics deals with the study of mutual interactions between the fundamental constituents of the atomic nucleus (protons and neutrons, the so-called nucleons) and between the constituents of the nucleons themselves. Nuclear physics can be split in two main branches
- Nuclear Structure: it encompasses the main theories describing formation, binding and static properties of the nucleus, such as mass, energy levels, decay
- Nuclear Reactions: the study of interactions among nuclei, and the subsequent formation of fragments and particle emission.
The information on the structure of the nucleus are derived mostly from the study of nuclear reactions and decay, either spontaneous or induced in laboratory experiments. Nuclear reactions occur in the stars, while many nuclei decay spontaneously in nature. Inside the laboratories nuclei are accelerated in order to study the nuclear reactions, and to reproduce the same conditions of the universe at the very beginning of its life (or few microseconds after the big bang).
INFN studies are focused on the following items:
- Study of quark dynamics, through experiments aimed at studying the spin and resonances of nucleons, the nuclear medium, hypernuclear spectroscopy, study of mesonic atoms (Frascati National Laboratory, CERN, Thomas Jefferson Laboratory);
- Nuclear matter phase transition: from liquid-vapour phases to Quark Gluon Plasma, through quark deconfinement (LHC at CERN).
- Nuclear structure and dynamics of nuclear reactions, through fission and fusion reactions, exotic nuclei (nuclei far from the stability curve), gamma spectroscopy and radioactive ion beams (Legnaro National Laboratory and Laboratori Nazionali del Sud).
- Nuclear astrophysics and applied research, through measurements of neutron induced nuclear cross sections.
The following pages give further information on some of the nuclear physics experiments in Trieste: