So the radioactive atoms that I am studying are mostly produced in very high-energy reactions in CERN. I’m trying to look at how we could produce them in lower-energy reactions in the UK. A lot of hospitals in the UK have machines called cyclotrons which are used to accelerate protons (or sometimes heavier nuclei) until they reach high speeds and can knock protons or neutrons out of another atom, to create a different kind of atom. I’m trying to look at how we can produce these atoms like that.
I’m going to steal part of an answer I gave to another question:
If you imagine you have a box that’s full to the top with tennis balls and then you stand a little distance away and throw another tennis ball into the box as fast as you can, a couple of the tennis balls that were already in there might bounce out. The nuclear reactions that I am looking at work in the same way.
The problem is, it’s very hard to get just the right number of tennis balls to bounce out, so we end up making lots of different radioactive atoms and have to think of ways to separate out the ones we need.