What are the astrophysical sites for the r-process and the production of heavy elements?
Kratz, K. -L.
Korneev, I. K.
This article addresses three of the four nucleosynthesis processes involved in producing heavy nuclei beyond Fe (with a main focus on the r-process). Opposite to the fourth process (the s-process), which operates in stellar evolution during He- and C-burning, they are all related to explosive burning phases, (presumably) linked to core collapse supernova events of massive stars. The (classical) p-process is identified with explosive Ne/O-burning in outer zones of the progenitor star. It is initiated by the passage of the supernova shock wave and acts via photodisintegration reactions like a spallation process which produces neighboring (proton-rich) isotopes from pre-existing heavy nuclei. The reproduction of some of the so-called lighter p-isotopes with A <100 faces problems in this environment. The only recently discovered vp-process is related to the innermost ejecta, the neutrino wind expelled from the hot proto-neutron star after core collapse and the supernova explosion. This neutrino wind is proton-rich in its early phase, producing nuclei up to Ge-64. Reactions with neutrinos permit to overcome decay/reaction bottlenecks for the flow beyond Ge-64, thus producing light p-isotopes, which face problems in the classical p-process scenario. The understanding of the r-process, being identified for a long time with rapid neutron captures and passing through nuclei far from stability, is still experiencing major problems. These are on the one hand related to nuclear uncertainties far from stability (masses, half-lives, fission barriers), affecting the process speed and abundance peaks. On the other hand the site is still not definitely located, yet. (i) Later, possibly neutron-rich, high entropy phases of the neutrino wind (if they materialize!) could permit its operation. (ii) Other options include the ejection of very neutron-rich neutron star-like matter, occurring possibly in neutron star mergers or core collapse supernova events with jets, related to prior stellar evolution with high rotation rates and magnetic fields. Two different environments are required for a weak and a main/strong r-process, witnessed by observations of low metallicity stars and meteoritic inclusions, which could possibly be identified with the two options listed above, i.e. the weak r-process could be related to the neutrino wind when changing from p-rich to n-rich conditions. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Published inProgress in Particle and Nuclear Physics
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