Nuclear win for ISOLDE physicists

26 November 2020
2020 Lise Meitner winners

The nuclear physics division of the European Physical Society today awarded the 2020 Lise Meitner Prize to three physicists who have played a decisive role in turning a small-scale nuclear-physics experiment at CERN into a world-leading facility for the investigation of nuclear structure.

Klaus Blaum (Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics), Björn Jonson (Chalmers University of Technology) and Piet Van Duppen (KU Leuven) are recognised for the development and application of online instrumentation and techniques, and for the precise and systematic investigation of properties of nuclei far from stability at CERN’s Isotope mass Separator On-Line facility (ISOLDE).

Blaum has made key contributions to the high-precision determination of nuclear ground state properties with laser and mass spectroscopic methods and to the development of new techniques in this field, while Jonson was acknowledged for his studies of the lightest exotic nuclei, namely halo nuclei, where he was the first to explain its surprisingly large matter radius. Van Duppen was recognised for his push in the production and investigation of post-accelerated radioactive beams with REX-ISOLDE. Since the 1960s, the ISOLDE user facility has produced extreme nuclear systems to help physicists understand how the strong interaction binds the ingredients of atomic nuclei, with advanced traps and lasers recently offering new ways to look for physics beyond the Standard Model.

I’m very impressed by the breadth of the recent prize winners

Eckhard Elsen

The biennial Lise Meitner prize, named after one of the pioneers in the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939, was established in 2000 to acknowledge outstanding work in the fields of experimental, theoretical or applied nuclear science. Former winners include a quartet of physicists (Johanna Stachel, Peter Braun-Munzinger, Paolo Giubellino and Jürgen Schukraft) from the ALICE collaboration in 2014, for the experimental exploration of the quark-gluon plasma using ultra-relativistic nucleus-nucleus collisions, and for the design and construction of the ALICE detector.

This year’s awards were officially presented during the 2020 ISOLDE workshop and users meeting held online on 26-27 November. “I’m very impressed by the breadth of the recent prize winners….covering a range of topics and varying between individuals and teams,” said CERN director for research and computing Eckhard Elsen during the award ceremony. “It is a good indicator of the health and the push of the field – it is truly alive.

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