Sm-146 – feasibility studies to re-date the chronology of the early solar system

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Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
AMS measurements of long-lived radionuclides can make significant contributions to the understanding of the temporal evolution of our early solar system. Samarium-146 has a half-life in the order of 100 Myr and decays via emission of α-particles into stable ¹⁴ ²Nd. Due to different geochemical behaviour and the radioactive decay of ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm, the Sm-Nd isotopic system can serve as a chronometer for the early solar system and planetary formation processes. The half-life of ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm, which provides the time scale for this clock, is in dispute. The most recent and notably precise measurements for the half-life are (103±5) Myr (adopted from [1,2]) and (68±7) Myr [3] and differ by more than 5 standard deviations. In addition to potentially resolving this discrepancy, developing AMS for ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm might provide the means to study stellar nucleosynthesis on the proton rich side of the chart of nuclei and serve as radiometric tracer for geosciences. Due to the extremely challenging task of separating ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm from its stable isobar ¹⁴ ⁶ Nd, to date the only AMS measurement of ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm was performed at Argonne National Laboratory with energies in the order of ~880 MeV. At the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility at ANU, the possibility to measure ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm at energies of 200-250 MeV is being explored. Different sample materials, molecular negative ion beams and detector setups are investigated. So far, the lowest Nd backgrounds, from commercially available sample material without additional Nd separation were achieved using SmO₂ - beams extracted from Sm₂ O₃ samples. In order to explore the limits of the Sm detection capabilities, Sm₂ O₃ samples were irradiated with thermal neutrons in the reactor at ANSTO to produce the shorter lived ¹⁴ ⁵ Sm (t1/2 = (340±3) d [4]) via ¹⁴ ⁴ Sm(n,γ)¹⁴ ⁵ Sm. The production of ¹⁴ ⁵ Sm is easier and faster and the challenges in measuring ¹⁴ ⁵ Sm via AMS are very similar to those measuring ¹⁴ ⁶ Sm. In addition, ¹⁴ ⁵ Sm has the potential to serve as a tracer for future reference materials for AMS measurements of Sm.
Samarium isotopes, Samarium 146, Earth planet, Solar system, Mass spectroscopy, Radioisotopes, Half-life, Heavy ion accelerators
Pavetich, S., Fifield, K., Froehlich, M. B., Koll, D., Slavkovská, Z., Stopic, A., Tims, S. G., & Wallner, A. (2021). Sm-146 – feasibility studies to re-date the chronology of the early solar system. Poster presented to the 15th International Conference on Accelerator Mass Spectrometry. ANSTO Sydney, Australia. November 15th – 19th, 2021, (pp. 223). Retrieved from: