The compound nucleus model
(idea of compound nucleus formation) was introduced by Danish physicist Niels Bohr
in 1936. This model assumes that incident particle and the target nucleus become indistinguishable
after the collision and together constitute the particular excited state of nucleus – the compound nucleus. To become indistinguishable the projectile has to suffer collisions with constituent nucleons of the target nucleus until it has lost its incident energy. In fact many so these collisions lead to a complete thermal equilibrium
inside the compound nucleus. The compound nucleus is excited by both the kinetic energy of the projectile and by the binding nuclear energy.
This compound system is a relatively long-lived intermediate state of particle-target composite system and from the definition, the compound nucleus must live for at least several times longer than is the time of transit of an incident particle across the nucleus (~10-22 s). The time scale of compound nucleus reactions is of the order of 10-18 s – 10-16 s, but lifetimes as long as 10-14 s have been also observed.
Very important feature and a direct consequence of the thermal equilibrium inside a compound nucleus is the fact the mode of decay of compound nucleus does not depend on the way the compound nucleus is formed. The large number of collisions between nucleons leads to the loss of the information on the entrance channel from the system. The decay mechanism (channel) that dominates the decay of C* is determined by the excitation energy in C*.
These reactions can be considered as a two-stage processes.
- The first stage is the formation of a compound nucleus expressed by σa+X➝C*
- The second stage is the decay of a compound nucleus expressed by PC*➝b+Y
- The result cross-section of certain reaction a+X➝[C*]➝b+Y is given by σ(a,b)= σa+X➝C* . PC*➝b+Y
Absorption reaction of fissile 235U. The uncertainty of the exit channel is caused by “loss of memory” of resonance [236U].
For the compound nucleus peaks in the cross-section are typical. Each peak is manifesting a particular compound state of nucleus. These peaks and the associated compound nuclei are usually called resonances. The behaviour of the cross-section between two resonances is usually strongly affected by the effect of nearby resonances.
Energy levels of compound state. For neutron absorption reaction on 238U the first resonance E1 corresponds to the excitation energy of 6.67eV. E0 is a base state of 239U.
Resonances (particular compound states) are mostly created in neutron nuclear reactions, but it is by no means restricted to neutron nuclear reactions. The formation of resonances is caused by the quantum nature of nuclear forces. Each nuclear reaction is a transition between different quantum discrete states or energy levels. The discrete nature of energy transitions plays a key role. If the energy of the projectile (the sum of the Q value and the kinetic energy of the projectile) and the energy of target nucleus is equal to a compound nucleus at one of the excitation states, a resonance can be created and peak occurs in the cross section. For light nucleus, the allowable state density in this energy region is much lower and the “distance” between states is higher. For heavy nuclei, such as 238U, we can observe large resonance region in the neutron absorption cross-section.
It is obvious the compound states (resonances) are observed at low excitation energies. This is due to the fact, the energy gap between the states is large. At high excitation energy, the gap between two compound states is very small and the widths of resonances may reach the order of the distances between resonances. Therefore at high energies no resonances can be observed and the cross section in this energy region is continuous and smooth.
Region of resonances of 238U nuclei.
Source: JANIS (Java-based Nuclear Data Information Software); The ENDF/B-VII.1 Nuclear Data Library
The ENDF/B-VII.1 Nuclear Data Library