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 (exit channel) that dominates the decay of C* is determined by the excitation energy in C* and by the law of probability.
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].