Mossbauer Absorption, Ir-191

As an example of the Mossbauer effect 129 keV gamma rays from iridium-191 were measured as a function of source velocity. A velocity of only about 1.5 cm/s was enough to drop the absorption to half its peak value. Sample and absorber were cooled to 88K.

A half-width of only about 0.65 x 10-5 electron volts makes this absorption an extremely sensitive test of any influence which would shift the frequency. It is sensitive enough to measure the Zeeman splittings from the magnetic field of the nucleus. Such processes have been used as a test of the gravitational red shift from general relativity.

Further discussion

Sec 15.4
  HyperPhysics***** Nuclear Go Back

Mossbauer Effect

The Mossbauer effect involves the emission and absorption of gamma rays from the excited states of a nucleus. When an excited nucleus emits a gamma ray, it must recoil in order to conserve momentum since the gamma ray photon has momentum. But this takes energy, and the gamma photon has less energy by about 1 eV for a 100 keV photon. The sharpness of an energy state in a potential target nucleus has a natural line width on the order of 10-5 eV, so that the shift in the photon energy prevents the target nucleus from absorbing the gamma photon.

Mossbauer discovered that by placing emitting and absorbing nuclei in a crystal, you could use the crystal lattice for recoil, lessening the recoil energy loss to the point that these extremely sharp emission and absorption lines would overlap so that absorption was observed. An important result was that you now had an extremely sensitive detector for energy shifts - a motion of either source or absorber with velocities on the order of millimeters per second was enough to detune the absorption.

ExampleApplication to gravitational red shiftMossbauer effect in iron-57
  HyperPhysics***** Nuclear Go Back