Modern alchemy

Irrespective of scientific received wisdom, the chemical environment of an atom can nevertheless affect its nuclear properties. According to researchers writing in Physical Review Letters, the half-life of a beryllium-7 atom trapped inside a fullerene C60 molecules (referred to as endohedral beryllium, Be@C60) changes by 1%. The researchers at Tohoku University and Yokohama National University in Japan suggest that the enclosed environment in which the beryllium atom finds itself affects one of the natural decay processes of this element. The unstable beryllium-7 nucleus can usually capture one its own electrons resulting in a proton turning into a neutron. However, within the cage-like environment of the C60, the rate of electron trapping rises slightly leading to the shift in decay rate. The team suggests that the discovery might lead to specialized radiotherapy carriers and tracers.