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Neutronization and Protonization of Nuclei: Two Possible Ways of the Evolution of Astrophysical Objects and the Laboratory Electron-Nucleus Collapse


We consider the peculiarities of the fundamental nuclear transformations running both in the shell of a heavy star compressed by the strong gravitational field and during the laboratory electron-nucleus collapse where the compression occurs at the expense of the electron-nucleus interaction in a volume occupied by a degenerate electron gas, define their analogs, and analyze the differences.

It is shown that the account of relativistic and nonlinear corrections to the Coulomb electron-nucleus interaction gives the possibility to realize two alternative ways for the evolution of the star matter which depend on both the rate of compression upon the gravitational collapse and the initial isotope composition of a star on the stage preceding the collapse.

Upon the relatively slow compression of a heavy star in the process of gravitational collapse after the attainment of the threshold electron density, there occur the stage-by-stage neutronization of nuclei and the formation of a neutron star with a great concentration of neutrons and a low concentration of protons and electrons. This process is characterized by the presence of a bounded interval of the density of a relativistic degenerate gas of electrons (“the neutronization corridor”), in the scope of which the neutronization runs with a decrease in the Fermi energy and the release of energy in the form of fast neutrinos.

At a higher electron density, the process of protonization becomes energy-gained. In this case, an increase in both the charge of nuclei and the concentration of degenerate electrons causes the continuous increase in the binding energy of electrons and nuclei which turns out to be more significant than the increase in the Fermi energy of electrons. The transition of nuclei through “the neutronization corridor” into “the protonization zone”, which ranges up to the nuclear density of a substance, is possible only in the case of a very fast compression of a heavy star. Such a process leads to the possibility of the formation of proton stars with a very small residual concentration of neutrons and a great (nuclear) concentration of protons and electrons.

It is shown that analogous effects can be realized during the laboratory electron-nucleus collapse. Due to a microscopic size of the collapse zone, a great velocity of its formation, and a relatively low rate of neutronization, the passage of the electron-nucleus substance through “the neutronization corridor” weakly affects its state. In this case, the main mechanism of transformations is the process of protonization with a simultaneous increase in the concentration of degenerate electrons.

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Correspondence to S. V. Adamenko.

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Adamenko, S., Vysotskii, V. Neutronization and Protonization of Nuclei: Two Possible Ways of the Evolution of Astrophysical Objects and the Laboratory Electron-Nucleus Collapse. Found Phys Lett 19, 21–36 (2006).

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Key words:

  • neutronization
  • protonization
  • Coulomb interaction
  • degenerate electron gas
  • superheavy nuclei synthesis