Experimental neutron capture rate constraint far from stability

S. Liddick, et al.

PRL 116, 242502 (2016)

Nuclear reactions where an exotic nucleus captures a neutron are critical for a wide variety of applications, from energy production and national security, to astrophysical processes, and nucleosynthesis. Neutron capture rates are well constrained near stable isotopes where experimental data are available; however, moving far from the valley of stability, uncertainties grow by orders of magnitude. This is due to the complete lack of experimental constraints, as the direct measurement of a neutron-capture reaction on a short-lived nucleus is extremely challenging. Here, we report on the first experimental extraction of a neutron capture reaction rate on $^{69}$Ni, a nucleus that is five neutrons away from the last stable isotope of Ni. The implications of this measurement on nucleosynthesis around mass 70 are discussed, and the impact of similar future measurements on the understanding of the origin of the heavy elements in the cosmos is presented.