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Thermonuclear reactions probed at stellar-core conditions with laser-based inertial-confinement fusion

Abstract

Stars are giant thermonuclear plasma furnaces that slowly fuse the lighter elements in the universe into heavier elements, releasing energy, and generating the pressure required to prevent collapse. To understand stars, we must rely on nuclear reaction rate data obtained, up to now, under conditions very different from those of stellar cores. Here we show thermonuclear measurements of the 2H(d, n)3He and 3H(t,2n)4He S-factors at a range of densities (1.2–16?g?cm−3) and temperatures (2.1–5.4?keV) that allow us to test the conditions of the hydrogen-burning phase of main-sequence stars. The relevant conditions are created using inertial-confinement fusion implosions at the National Ignition Facility. Our data agree within uncertainty with previous accelerator-based measurements and establish this approach for future experiments to measure other reactions and to test plasma-nuclear effects present in stellar interiors, such as plasma electron screening, directly in the environments where they occur.

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Figure 2: Comparison of the core conditions of several stellar systems to those achieved in the experiments described herein.
Figure 1: Experimental setup and conditions achieved at peak burn.
Figure 3: Thermonuclear reactivity and S-factor data for 2H(d, n)3He and 3H(t,2n)4He.

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Acknowledgements

The authors sincerely thank the NIF operations staff who supported this work. The authors also thank N. Kabadi for discovering an error in equation (9) in an earlier version of the manuscript. This work was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344 and by Ohio University under US Department of Energy grant number DE-FG02-88ER40387 and DE-NA0002905.

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Authors

Contributions

D.T.C. shot (experiments) RI (responsible individual), stagnation campaign lead, and nuclear data analysis. D.B.S. nTOF (neutron time of flight) instrument analysis and nuclear data analysis. C.R.B. nuclear data analysis. V.A.S. shot RI and CD symcap campaign lead. C.R.W. three dimensional hydrodynamic simulations. R.E.T. experiment design and one dimensional hydrodynamic simulations. J.E.P. experiment design, CD symcap campaign lead, and two dimensional hydrodynamic simulations. G.P.G. shot RI and nTOF analysis. B.A.R. mix campaign lead. D.D. stellar evolution simulations. L.R.B. shot RI and X-ray image analysis. J.A.F. Magnetic Recoil Spectrometer (MRS) analysis. M.G.-J. MRS analysis. R.H. nTOF analysis. N.I. shot RI and X-ray image analysis. J.M.M. shot RI and nTOF analysis. T.M. shot RI and X-ray image analysis. G.A.K. shot RI and X-ray image analysis. S.M. experiment design and 2shock campaign lead. J.S. experiment design. S.F.K. shot RI and X-ray image analysis. A.P. shot RI and X-ray image analysis. L.B.H. experiment design. S.L. shot RI. B.K.S. experiment design and stagnation campaign lead. N.B.M. experiment design and IDEP campaign lead. L.D. experiment design. C.B.Y. shot RI and activation diagnostics analysis. J.A.C. nTOF analysis. D.P.M. nuclear data analysis. D.M.H. deuterium and tritium operations. M.C.-Z. mass spectrometer data analysis. T.R.K. deuterium and tritium operations. T.G.P. deuterium and tritium operations.

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Correspondence to D. T. Casey.

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Casey, D., Sayre, D., Brune, C. et al. Thermonuclear reactions probed at stellar-core conditions with laser-based inertial-confinement fusion. Nature Phys 13, 1227–1231 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys4220

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