We’ve been (now officially) awarded NSF funding to study the thermodynamics of nuclei and nuclear matter!
Here’s an excerpt from the “Intellectual Merit” section of the summary:
At least half of the heavy elements in the periodic table are believed to be generated by r-process nucleosynthesis in neutron star mergers (NSMs). Whether those are indeed the sites of the r-process is a central question in nuclear astrophysics. To answer it, the dynamical evolution of NSMs is studied in astrophysics simulations, whose main microscopic input is the thermal equation of state of dense nuclear matter. Calculating the latter poses a challenging quantum many-body problem. The overarching objective of this project is to face that challenge, starting with the finite-temperature thermodynamics of neutron matter, using the ab initio non-perturbative tools of non-relativistic lattice field theory combined with chiral effective theory interactions. Calculations of the pairing, superfluidity, and clustering properties are also proposed, as they impact the structure and thermal evolution of neutron stars. The same theoretical tools will provide quantitative insight into the density of states of finite nuclei in an ab initio fashion, which is a long-standing problem in nuclear physics and an input for nuclear reaction theory.