The Nucleus: Coming Soon in 3D!

Image courtesy of DOE’s Jefferson Lab - The Radial Time Projection Chamber, shown installed in Jefferson Lab's Experimental Hall B, was built to measure the nucleus of helium-4 in the experiment. This measurement demonstrates that 3D imaging of the inner structure of the nucleus is now possible.

Jefferson Lab moves closer to 3D imaging of nuclear structure.

The Science

A measurement of quarks in the helium nucleus demonstrates for the first time that 3D imaging of the inner structure of the nucleus is possible.

The Impact

This is the first successful demonstration of imaging nuclear structure in three dimensions, opening a new field of 3D Tomography of nuclei.

Summary

Physicians have long used CT scans to get 3D imagery of the inner workings of the human body. Now, physicists are working toward getting their first 3D scans of the inner workings of the atomic nucleus. A measurement of quarks in the helium nucleus demonstrates that 3D imaging of the inner structure of the nucleus is now possible. The result comes from applying the theory of generalized parton distributions to experimental data taken on the helium nucleus. GPDs provide a framework that, when combined with experimental results, allows nuclear physicists to complete a 3D rendering of the building blocks of subatomic particles, such as the proton, neutron, and now, even the nucleus. GPDs are already being applied to 3D imaging studies of protons and neutrons at Jefferson Lab. These studies are helping researchers understand how quarks and gluons build protons and neutrons. This result opens a new window into the structure of the nucleus by extending this GPD tomography technique to nuclei. The research was conducted at Jefferson Lab’s Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility by a collaboration of scientists led by spokespeople based at Argonne National Laboratory.

Contact

Nathan Baltzell
Jefferson Lab
baltzell@jlab.org

Funding

This work was supported in part by the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Italian Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the French Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Nuclear Physics, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357, the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), the National Research Foundation of Korea, and the Office of Research and Economic Development at Mississippi State University. M. Hattawy also acknowledges the support of the Consulat Général de France à Jérusalem.

Publications

M. Hattawy et al. (CLAS Collaboration). “First Exclusive Measurement of Deeply Virtual Compton Scattering off 4He: Toward the 3D Tomography of Nuclei.” Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 202004.

Related Links

The Nucleus: Coming Soon in 3D

November 2017