By the first millisecond, the universe had cooled to a few trillion kelvins (1012 K) and quarks finally had the opportunity to bind together into free protons and neutrons. Free neutrons are unstable with a half-life of about ten minutes (614.8 s) and formed in much smaller numbers. The abundance ratio was about seven protons for every neutron. Before one neutron half-life passed nearly every neutron had paired up with a proton, and nearly every one of these pairs had paired up to form helium. By this time the universe had cooled to a few billion kelvins (109 K) and the rate of nucleosynthesis had slowed down significantly. By the time the universe was three minutes old the process had basically stopped and the relative abundances of the elements was fixed at ratios that didn't change for very long time: 75% hydrogen, 25% helium, with trace amounts of deuterium (hydrogen-2), helium-3, and lithium-7. Big Bang nucleosynthesis produced no elements heavier than lithium. To do that you need stars, which means waiting around for at least 200 billion years.
More than ninety per cent of the universe is composed of hydrogen and helium. Both elements have been around since shortly after the beginning of the universe. Yet, hydrogen and helium together won't make anything as complex and as interesting as the earth, or a bacterium, or a refrigerator, or you and I. To do that we need carbon and oxygen and nitrogen and silicon and chlorine and every other naturally occurring element. Almost all the hydrogen and helium present in the universe today (and some of the lithium) were created in the first three minutes after the big bang. All of the other naturally occurring elements were created in stars.
Stars like the sun
Details were discussed in the section on Fusion. The basic parts of the reaction are …
|2(||11H||+||11H||→||21H||+||0+1e||+||00ν)||0.4 MeV + 1.0 MeV|
Which overall yields …
|4(11H) → 42He + 2(0+1e + 00γ + 00ν)||26.7 MeV|
Stars heavier than the sun use carbon-12 as a catalyst.
You need really massive stars for this — say 20 to 120 times the mass of the sun.
Really, really heavy stars do something different.
The Mass-5 and Mass-8 Bottlenecks. There are no stable isotopes (of any element) having atomic masses 5 or 8. But there is always a very small amount of beryllium-8 at any moment that is available to fuse with a third helium to produce carbon-12. This extremely improbable sequence is called the triple-alpha process because the net effect is to combine 3 alpha particles to form a carbon-12 nucleus. The triple-alpha process is not relevant in main sequence (normal) stars like the sun because their core temperatures are too low. However, in the red giant phase, after many stars have accumulated vast amounts of helium in their core, the central temperature can rise high enough (108 K) to initiate the triple-alpha process.
|42He +||42 He||+ 92 keV||→||84Be*|
|42He +||84Be*||+ 67 keV||→||126C*|
|126C*||→||126C + 00γ + 7.4 MeV|
3(42He) → 126C + 00γ + 7.4 MeV
In order of increasing alpha number, the following forms of fusion take place …
|1||4||He||helium||formed in all stars|
|2||8||no stable isotopes with this mass number|
|3||12||C||carbon||triple alpha process|
|8||32||S||sulfur||most abundant isotope of sulfur|
|0.02% of all sulfur atoms
most abundant isotope of solar argon
|most abundant isotope of atmospheric argon
0.01% of all potassium atoms
most abundant isotope of calcium
|11||44||Ca||calcium||2.1% of all calcium atoms|
|0.19% of all calcium atoms
|lifetime remaining||core temperature||core reaction|
|1,000,000 years||170,000,000 K||4He||⇒||12C, 16O|
|1,000 years||12C||⇒||20Ne, 24Mg|
|10 years||1,500,000,000 K||20Ne||⇒||16O, 24Mg|
|1 year||2,000,000,000 K||16O||⇒||28Si, 32S|
|1 day||3,000,000,000 K||28Si, 32S||⇒||56Fe, 56Ni|
|1 s||explosive fusion
Mix it all up and get everything from hydrogen to uranium (and maybe even up to californium).
|rank||element||per million kg||per million atoms|
Rutherford was the first to transform one element into another.
147N + 42He → 178O → 11H
|9642Mo + 21H →||9843Tc|
|9843Tc →||9844Ru + 0−1e + 00ν|
|9842Mo + 10n →||9942Mo|
|9942Mo →||9943Tc + 0−1e + 00ν|
|9943Tc →||9944Ru + 0−1e + 00ν + 00γ|
|9543Tc* + 0−1e →||9644Ru + 00ν + 00γ|
|14660Nd + 10n →||14761Pm + 0−1e + 00ν|
transuranic, cisuranic, superheavy
|99||Es||einsteinium||1952||Pacific Ocean||found in radioactive fallout|
|100||Fm||fermium||1952||Pacific Ocean||found in radioactive fallout|
|117||[Uus]||[ununseptium]||2010||JINR||4820Ca + 24997Bk → 293117Uus + 410|
|118||[Uuo]||[ununoctium]||2002||JINR||4820Ca + 24998Cf → 294118Uuo + 310n|
|119||[Uue]||[ununennium]||–||–||not yet synthesized|
|120||[Ubn]||[unbinilium]||–||–||not yet synthesized|
|121||[Ubu]||[unbiunium]||–||–||not yet synthesized|
|122||[Ubb]||[unbibium]||–||–||not yet synthesized|
|Note:||Some claims are subject to debate.|
|Chicago:||University of Chicago; Chicago, Illinois|
|GSI:||Society for Heavy Ion Research; Darmstadt, Germany
(Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung)
|JINR:||Joint Institute for Nuclear Research; Dubna, Russia
(Объединенный Институт Ядерных Исследований)
|LBL:||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Berkeley, California|
|ORNL:||Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Oak Ridge, Tennessee|
|Palermo:||University of Palermo; Palermo, Italy
(Università degli Studi di Palermo)