In a research published in a journal Physical Review Letters, it has been reported that atomic nucleus can be changed into a linear shape having many tiny clusters of protons and neutrons.
The research is done by Takatoshi Ichikawa of Kyoto University and his collaborators. This team studied the rotating oxygen-16 nucleus by using the method known as the Hartree-Fock method. The interactions between the nucleons are described in terms of Skyrme forces, force binding the nucleons together. Researchers used nucleon density distribution in 3-dimensional space to check nucleus shape.
Nucleus is usually deformed from the original shape upon rapid spinning and may change to a form with width-to-length ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 in heavy elements and this research is helpful in evidencing the deformation in light nuclei such as carbon and oxygen.
This finding is important in clearing the idea of nuclear state in the generation of carbon-12 and oxygen-16 elements, which is found to be (an) essential (component) for life in the interiors of stars as the shape of nucleus is important in nuclear reactions, which result in the production of natural elements.
This study further demonstrated that stable exotic states can exist with a large moment of inertia.
This research has opened new horizons for the study of further (different) structures of nuclei and arrangement of neutrons and protons in them.
Ichikawa, T. et. al. (2011). Linear Chain Structure of Four-α Clusters in 16-O. Physical Review Letters, 107(11), 112501.