IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd November, 2023 Science and Technology


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  • A study recently published in Physical Review Letters points out the existence of one particularly unusual isotope, nitrogen-9. 


Introduction to Isotopes and Unusual Nitrogen-9

  • There are 118 elements distinguished by their unique atomic structures, including different numbers of electrons, protons, and neutrons.
  • Isotopes are variants of an element with varying neutron numbers.
  • Nitrogen-9 is an unusual isotope characterized by seven protons and two neutrons, possessing a high proton-to-neutron ratio, challenging traditional stability thresholds.

Understanding Stability and Drip Lines

  • Stability boundaries in atomic nuclei are defined by proton and neutron drip lines.
  • Nitrogen-9's unique proton-to-neutron ratio places it beyond conventional stability thresholds, prompting scientific interest.

Nuclide Chart

  • Scientists use a nuclide chart to map isotopes based on their combinations of protons and neutrons, revealing relationships between isotones, isobars, and isodiaphers.

Methodology of the Study

  • Researchers conducted an experiment involving the collision of oxygen-13 atoms with a beryllium-9 target to create nitrogen-9 isotopes.
  • High-resolution detectors were employed to analyze emitted particles and study different energy states (resonant states) of nitrogen-9.

Findings and Analysis

  • Distinct energy peaks were observed, indicating specific resonant states, denoted as ½+ and ½-, indicating angular momentum and symmetry characteristics.
  • The Gamow shell model was used to support and analyze these findings, especially regarding the characteristics of nitrogen-9's resonant states.

Implications of the Discovery

  • The confirmation of nitrogen-9's existence challenges previous assumptions about nuclear states and extends the boundaries on the nuclide chart, expanding scientific possibilities.
  • Understanding exotic isotopes like nitrogen-9 can offer insights into fundamental nuclear physics and potentially aid in astrophysical models, enhancing our understanding of elemental synthesis in stars.

Nitrogen: A Overview

  • Nitrogen is a chemical element with the symbol N and atomic number 7 in the periodic table.
  • It is a non-metal and constitutes about 78% of Earth's atmosphere by volume, making it the most abundant gas in the air.

Properties and Characteristics:

  • Nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas at room temperature and pressure.
  • It exists in various forms, with diatomic nitrogen gas (N2) being the most common, exhibiting strong triple covalent bonds between nitrogen atoms.
  • Nitrogen is relatively inert, not readily reacting with other elements under normal conditions.

Occurrence and Importance:

  • Apart from being a major component of Earth's atmosphere, nitrogen is an essential element in living organisms and is crucial for the formation of proteins, DNA, and other biomolecules.
  • It is present in soil and is a vital component of the nitrogen cycle, playing a key role in plant growth and agriculture.
  • Nitrogen compounds are used in various industrial applications, including fertilizers, explosives, and pharmaceuticals.

Isotopes of Nitrogen:

  • Nitrogen has two stable isotopes: nitrogen-14 (^14N) and nitrogen-15 (^15N).
  • Nitrogen-14 is the most abundant isotope, constituting about 99.6% of naturally occurring nitrogen, while nitrogen-15 makes up the remaining 0.4%.


  • The discovery of nitrogen-9 provides compelling evidence for its existence and significantly impacts our understanding of subatomic structures and the limits of isotopic existence.


Q. Which of the following statements about nitrogen-9 (N-9) is correct?

A) Nitrogen-9 is a stable isotope of nitrogen found abundantly in nature.

B) Nitrogen-9 has an unusual composition of seven protons and two neutrons, challenging conventional stability thresholds.

C) Nitrogen-9 is primarily used in the manufacturing of fertilizers and pharmaceuticals.

D) Nitrogen-9 is a diatomic molecule commonly found in Earth's atmosphere.

Answer: B)