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Study of neutron star crust with solid state theory


The inner neutron star crust, composed of a lattice of nuclei immersed in a neutron superfluid, plays an important role in our understanding of many observational issues, such as pulsar glitches, thermal emission and cooling or gravitational wave instabili ties. The growing number of data in the whole electromagnetic spectrum and the imminent rising of the gravitational wave astronomy urge the need for a deep theoretical study of the neutron star crust. This is even more so as a detailed analysis of the crus t composition is essential to evaluate the possible contribution of neutron stars to the galactic enrichment in the so-called r-process nuclei, the origin of which remains one major mystery in nuclear astrophysics. Despite the close analogy between free ne utrons in the crust and free electrons in solids, solid state physics concepts have not yet permeated nuclear astrophysics. In particular, Bragg scattering, which is crucial for the understanding of transport properties, has been entirely neglected for mor e than three decades. The aim of the project is to change this situation by adapting to the nuclear context the band theory of solids, which has been very successful in describing electronic, photonic and phononic materials. We want to apply it to the stud y of neutron star crusts by solving the Hartree-Fock-Bogoliubov equations. The Institut d'Astronomie et d'Astrophysique of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles is an ideal place to achieve this goal and to examine the astrophysics consequences of the emerging model. This institute is recognized worldwide as a center of excellence in nuclear astrophysics. It has a substantial expertise in the development of mean field models and of their application to a large variety of nuclear problems. This project, by estab lishing a bridge between nuclear and solid state physics, will open an entirely new field of nuclear astrophysics, namely "neutronic" crystals, thus contributing to the European scientific excellence.

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