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Help! Need description of formation of heavy elements

  1. Apr 3, 2007 #1
    Hi,

    Hope someone here can help. I'm working on explanatory graphics on how nuclear fusion works, and how the elements are formed. In particular, I need to show how elements heavier than iron are formed. The obvious process is as part of a supernova explosion, but for the life of me I can't find any diagrams showing what exactly happens.

    What I think I know so far: once you get to iron or heavier you need to pump energy in to the reaction to get results. It seems nuclear fusion is replaced by the R and/or S processes, where the huge amount of neutrons released in a supernova explosion slam into the Fe, building it up to heavier elements. Some of these heavier elements are stable, others aren't and decay to stable elements.

    OK that's probably a very simplistic explanation, but this needs to be made as easy to understand as possible for our visitors (astronomy exhibition).

    So, two questions:

    1. Can someone help describe (or even better point me to a diagram) what happens specifically? Even something as simple as Fe + loadsa neutrons = a heavier element?

    2. For my own further interest, is this how it would also work for us down here doing it artificially? Do we slam heavier elements into each other and get something new, or do we copy this R/S process and use neutrons instead? And if we do, could someone give me an example reaction?

    Thanks for reading this far, any help much appreciated!

    Peter
     
  2. jcsd
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