Krane, Kenneth S. Department of Physics, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.
Last reviewed:November 2016
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- Producing nuclear orientation
- Observing nuclear orientation
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The directional ordering of the spins of a collection of nuclei with respect to some axis in space. The atomic nucleus is characterized by its spin, which represents the total angular momentum (including intrinsic and orbital) of all of the nucleons in the nucleus. Normally these spins are directed randomly in space (Fig. 1a), but under certain conditions imposed by the experimenter they can be forced into a preferred direction, and this ordering can be revealed by observing the radioactive decay of the nucleus or its behavior when undergoing nuclear reactions. If the oriented nuclei show no preference for direction along the orientation axis (that is, if there are equal numbers oriented forward and backward, or up and down), the nuclei are said to be aligned (Fig. 1b). If there is a preference for one direction over its opposite, the nuclei are said to be polarized (Fig. 1c). See also: Angular momentum; Spin (quantum mechanics)
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