Nuclear Pasta May Be Strongest Known Material

first_img Scientists Discover Possible Interstellar VisitorWater Vapor Detected on Potentially ‘Habitable’ Planet Stay on target Spaghetti is flimsy as hell, and dry linguine can crack in a strong wind. But nuclear pasta is a whole other matter (literally).According to astrophysics, nuclear pasta exists in ultradense dead neutron stars—and may be the strongest material in the universe.Neutron stars, the smallest and densest of their kind, form from the supernova explosion of a massive star; gravitational collapse compresses the core past white dwarf star density to atomic nuclei.About a kilometer below the star’s surface, those nuclei squeeze together so tightly they merge into nuclear matter—clumps thought to be shaped a bit like noodles.Moving through the inner crust of neutron stars, you may find the gnocchi phase (semi-spherical formations), spaghetti phase (long rods), lasagna phase (sheets of nuclear matter), and bucatini phase (cylindrical construction).Further compression yields the surprise Swiss cheese phase—when nuclear pasta holes become scattered spherical holes.Eventually, the nuclei disappear, transitioning into the liquid core of the star.Nuclear pasta is incredibly dense (about 100 trillion times the mass of water), making it basically impossible to break, and equally difficult to study in a laboratory.So, researchers used computer simulations, playing with nuclear lasagna sheets to see how the material responds to physical change. It took “immense pressures” to even contort the cosmic noodles; the physical force required to snap the pasta was greater, Science News magazine reported, than for any other known material.Breaking it, in fact, demands 10 billion times the force needed to crack steal.“This is a crazy-big figure, but the material is also very, very dense, so that helps make it stronger,” study co-author and physicist Charles Horowitz, of Indiana University Bloomington, told Science News.These new results, scheduled for publishing in the journal Physical Review Letters, could help physicists uncover real-world evidence of so-called nuclear pasta.Neutron stars spin super fast, possibly emitting gravitational waves—conceivably detectable at facilities like the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), the magazine said.Spacetime ripples occur if, and only if, a neutron star features mounds of dense material. The larger the mountain, the more powerful the gravitational waves.The trouble is, neutron stars’ intense gravity allows for “mountains” only a few centimeters tall. But that may be big enough, simulations suggest, for LIGO to spot neutron stars’ gravitational waves.If so, scientists could estimate the mountains’ size, and confirm that neutron stars have super-strong materials in their crusts.A clever YouTuber made a kitchen knife out of pasta. Meanwhile, the mysteries of outer space abound. Read more celestial news here.last_img

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