Abstract:
It is argued that $N\sim Z$ nuclei with $90\leq A\leq100$ can be interpreted in terms of aligned neutron--proton pairs with angular momentum $J=2j$ and isospin T=0. Based on this observation, a version of the interacting boson model is formulated in terms of isoscalar high-spin bosons. To illustrate its possible use, the model is applied to the $21^+$ isomer in $^{94}$Ag.

Abstract:
A study is carried out of the role of the aligned neutron-proton pair with angular momentum J=9 and isospin T=0 in the low-energy spectroscopy of the $N=Z$ nuclei $^{96}$Cd, $^{94}$Ag, and $^{92}$Pd. Shell-model wave functions resulting from realistic interactions are analyzed in terms of a variety of two-nucleon pairs corresponding to different choices of their coupled angular momentum $J$ and isospin $T$. The analysis is performed exactly for four holes ($^{96}$Cd) and carried further for six and eight holes ($^{94}$Ag and $^{92}$Pd) by means of a mapping to an appropriate version of the interacting boson model. The study allows the identification of the strengths and deficiencies of the aligned-pair approximation.

Abstract:
A review is given of attempts to describe nuclear properties in terms of neutron--proton pairs that are subsequently replaced by bosons. Some of the standard approaches with low-spin pairs are recalled but the emphasis is on a recently proposed framework with pairs of neutrons and protons with aligned angular momentum. The analysis is carried out for general $j$ and applied to $N=Z$ nuclei in the $1f_{7/2}$ and $1g_{9/2}$ shells.

Abstract:
The microscopic justification of the emergence of SU(3) symmetry in heavy nuclei remains an interesting problem. In the past, the pseudo-SU(3) approach has been used, with considerable success. Recent results seem to suggest that the key for understanding the emergence of SU(3) symmetry lies in the properties of the proton-neutron interaction, namely in the formation of (S=1, T=0) p-n pairs in heavy nuclei, especially when the numbers of valence protons and valence neutrons are nearly equal. Although this idea has been around for many years, since the introduction of the Federman-Pittel mechanism, it is only recently that information about the p-n interaction could be obtained from nuclear masses, which become available from modern facilities. Based on this information, a new coupling scheme for heavy deformed nuclei has been suggested and is under development.

Abstract:
Shell model calculations using realistic interactions reveal that the ground and low-lying yrast states of the $N=Z$ nucleus $^{92}_{46}$Pd are mainly built upon isoscalar neutron-proton pairs each carrying the maximum angular momentum J=9 allowed by the shell $0g_{9/2}$ which is dominant in this nuclear region. This structure is different from the ones found in the ground and low-lying yrast states of all other even-even nuclei studied so far. The low-lying spectrum of excited states generated by such correlated neutron-proton pairs has two distinctive features: i) the levels are almost equidistant at low energies and ii) the transition probability $I\rightarrow I-2$ is approximately constant and strongly selective. This unique mode is shown to replace normal isovector pairing as the dominating coupling scheme in $N=Z$ nuclei approaching the doubly-magic nucleus $^{100}$Sn.

Abstract:
We systematically analyse the coherence length in even-even nuclei. The pairing coherence length in the spin-singlet channel for the effective density dependent delta (DDD) and Gaussian interaction is estimated. We consider in our calculations bound states as well as narrow resonances. It turns out that the pairing gaps given by the DDD interaction are similar to those of the Gaussian potential if one renormalizes the radial width to the nuclear radius. The correlations induced by the pairing interaction have in all considered cases a long range character inside the nucleus and decrease towards the surface. The mean coherence length is larger than the geometrical radius for light nuclei and approaches this value for heavy nuclei. The effect of the temperature and states in continuum is investigated. Strong shell effects are evidenced, especially for protons. We generalize this concept to quartets by considering similar relations, but between proton and neutron pairs. The quartet coherence length has a similar shape, but with larger values on the nuclear surface. We evidence the important role of proton-neutron correlations by estimating the so-called alpha coherence length, which takes into account the overlap with the proton-neutron part of the $\alpha$-particle wave function. It turns out that it does not depend on the nuclear size and has a value comparable to the free $\alpha$-particle radius. We have shown that pairing correlations are mainly concentrated inside the nucleus, while quarteting correlations are connected to the nuclear surface.

Abstract:
The recently proposed spin-aligned neutron-proton pair coupling scheme is studied within a non-orthogonal basis in term of the multistep shell model. This allows us to identify simultaneously the roles played by other configurations such as the normal pairing term. The model is applied to four-, six- and eight-hole $N=Z$ nuclei below the core $^{100}$Sn.

Abstract:
The seniority scheme has been shown to be extremely useful for the classification of nuclear states in semi-magic nuclei. The neutron-proton ($np$) correlation breaks the seniority symmetry in a major way. As a result, the corresponding wave function is a mixture of many components with different seniority quantum numbers. In this contribution we show that the $np$ interaction may favor a new kind of coupling in $N=Z$ nuclei, i.e., the so-called isoscalar spin-aligned $np$ pair mode. Shell model calculations reveal that the ground and low-lying yrast states of the $N = Z$ nuclei $^{92}$Pd and $^{96}$Cd may mainly be built upon such spin-aligned $np$ pairs each carrying the maximum angular momentum $J = 9$ allowed by the shell $0g_{9/2}$ which is dominant in this nuclear region.

Abstract:
Enhanced proton-neutron interactions occur in heavy nuclei along a trajectory of approximately equal numbers of valence protons and neutrons. This is also closely aligned with the trajectory of the saturation of quadrupole deformation. The origin of these enhanced p-n interactions is discussed in terms of spatial overlaps of proton and neutron wave functions that are orbit-dependent. It is suggested for the first time that nuclear collectivity is driven by synchronized filling of protons and neutrons with orbitals having parallel spins, identical orbital and total angular momenta projections, belonging to adjacent major shells and differing by one quantum of excitation along the z-axis. These results may lead to a new approach to symmetry-based theoretical calculations for heavy nuclei.

Abstract:
The general phenomenon of shell structure in atomic nuclei has been understood since the pioneering work of Goeppert-Mayer, Haxel, Jensen and Suess.They realized that the experimental evidence for nuclear magic numbers could be explained by introducing a strong spin-orbit interaction in the nuclear shell model potential. However, our detailed knowledge of nuclear forces and the mechanisms governing the structure of nuclei, in particular far from stability, is still incomplete. In nuclei with equal neutron and proton numbers ($N = Z$), the unique nature of the atomic nucleus as an object composed of two distinct types of fermions can be expressed as enhanced correlations arising between neutrons and protons occupying orbitals with the same quantum numbers. Such correlations have been predicted to favor a new type of nuclear superfluidity; isoscalar neutron-proton pairing, in addition to normal isovector pairing (see Fig. 1). Despite many experimental efforts these predictions have not been confirmed. Here, we report on the first observation of excited states in $N = Z = 46$ nucleus $^{92}$Pd. Gamma rays emitted following the $^{58}$Ni($^{36}$Ar,2$n$)$^{92}$Pd fusion-evaporation reaction were identified using a combination of state-of-the-art high-resolution {\gamma}-ray, charged-particle and neutron detector systems. Our results reveal evidence for a spin-aligned, isoscalar neutron-proton coupling scheme, different from the previous prediction. We suggest that this coupling scheme replaces normal superfluidity (characterized by seniority coupling) in the ground and low-lying excited states of the heaviest N = Z nuclei. The strong isoscalar neutron- proton correlations in these $N = Z$ nuclei are predicted to have a considerable impact on their level structures, and to influence the dynamics of the stellar rapid proton capture nucleosynthesis process.