Phase separation in the crust of accreting neutron stars

  • Horowitz C
  • Brown E
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Nucleosynthesis, on the surface of accreting neutron stars, produces a range of chemical elements. We perform molecular dynamics simulations of crystallization to see how this complex composition forms new neutron star crust. We find chemical separation, with the liquid ocean phase greatly enriched in low atomic number elements compared to the solid crust. This phase separation should change many crust properties such as the thermal conductivity and shear modulus. The concentration of carbon, if present, is enriched in the ocean. This may allow unstable thermonuclear burning of the carbon and help explain the ignition of the very energetic explosions known as superbursts.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Astrophysics
  • Nuclear Theory
  • Statistical Mechanics

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  • C. J. Horowitz

  • E. F. Brown

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