The nuclear shell model
is a model of the nucleus
in nuclear physics
. It is analogous to the atomic
shell model that is more familiar to those who
have studied basic physics
. Recall that in the atomic
shell model, the electrons
populate shells, and once
a shell is filled, there is a significant drop in the
binding energy for the next electron added.
It is similar for the nuclear shell model. When adding
nucleons (protons or neutrons) to a nucleus, there
are certain points where the binding energy of the
next nucleon is significantly less than the last one.
This observation, that there are certain "magic numbers"
of nucleons: 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, 126 which are more
tightly bound than the next higher number, that are
the origin of the shell model.
Note that the shells exist for both protons and neutrons
individually, so that we can speak of "magic nuclei"
where one nucleon type is at a magic number, and "doubly magic nuclei", where both are.