The chemistry is right not only in element 113: Helmholtz International Fellow Professor David Hinde from Australia is guest of GSI and HIM

Professor David Hinde, Director of the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra (Australia), recently received the Helmholtz International Fellow Award. The prize, of EUR 20.000, also enables the award winner to undertake research at a Helmholtz center. Hinde, a leading expert in the field of nucleus-nucleus collisions, is using this award to strengthen cooperation with the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) and the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM). Quite recently he made another research visit to Darmstadt and Mainz.

During his research stay, the Australian Professor David Hinde worked on the TASCA recoil separator at GSI; on the photo, he adjusts the correct time range for the beam pulse.
Photo: Gabi Otto / GSI

A central subject there was the chemistry of the recently officially recognized element 113 which, according to IUPAC, was discovered in Japan and has recently been proposed to be given the name "Nihonium". Professor Hinde, as a member of a collaboration project managed by the Superheavy Elements Chemistry (SHE Chemistry) Department, was a guest for one week at the TASCA recoil separator. There, 40 scientists and engineers from ten research centers are collaborating. The objective of the three-week experiment was to study the chemical characteristics of the element. Another main subject of the visit was planning of the next joint experiments of the two research groups, to be carried out at the ANU accelerator in Australia. A very close partner is also the Institute for Nuclear Chemistry of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, which also cooperates within HIM. After the visit to the Rhine-Main region, he attended a symposium in Sweden on superheavy elements, then returned to his homeland of Australia.

This visit strengthens the intensive scientific exchanges between the Australian researchers and their colleagues at GSI and HIM. Research collaboration started five years ago, and was intensified from 2012 by Professor Hinde and Christoph Düllmann, professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Head of the SHE Chemistry Departments at GSI and HIM. Hinde remembers: "Christoph came in 2012 to a conference in Australia; we met there and soon decided to strengthen our collaboration." As a result of the joint research interests and the complementary research infrastructure at ANU and GSI, an increasingly strong cooperation was developed in recent years between the research groups in Germany and Australia. Research experiments have been conducted at ANU since 2011 and at GSI since 2012. "GSI has excellent tools, which are among the best in the world", says Hinde.

The nomination of David Hinde for the Helmholtz International Fellow Award has also arisen from this cooperation and was initiated by HIM via GSI. Christoph Düllmann, who himself was in Canberra for several months in the past winter and worked together with Hinde and other members of his research group on joint experiments on the tandem-accelerator, points out: "David Hinde is a recognized expert in fundamental high-precision research on low-energy nuclear fusion reactions covering a large area of the chart of the nuclides. Under his direction, unique devices were built for such research, which optimally use the precision beam characteristics of the ANU accelerator."

This is a complex subject, but it is based on a very simple stimulus which led the now 59-year-old English-born researcher to his career choice: "I love physics, and it should not sound like bragging, but I am good at what I do. I have always wanted to know how things in nature function." The married father of two grown-up children has known Germany for many years, since in the late 1980s he worked for two years at the Hahn-Meitner Institute in Berlin, which is today the Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB). And how did he get to know the GSI? Get to know does not appear to be the right word because Hinde says simply: "Everybody knows the GSI. It is famous around the world."

Hinde still remembers with pleasure one key moment: During a conference in 1996, Professor Peter Armbruster reported about the discovery at GSI of element 112 (Copernicium) – and described the long alpha-particle decay chain from 112 as “a poem of physics”. Hinde has never forgotten those words: "I found this very inspiring, this passion and poetry. For me this was a strong motivator for my subsequent work."