Sensitivity studies for a main $r$ process: nuclear masses

A. Aprahamian, I. Bentley, M. Mumpower, R. Surman

AIP Advances 4, 041101 (2014)

The site of the rapid neutron capture process ($r$ process) is one of the open challenges in all of physics today. The $r$ process is thought to be responsible for the creation of more than half of all elements beyond iron. The scientific challenges to understanding the origin of the heavy elements beyond iron lie in both the uncertainties associated with astrophysical conditions that are needed to allow an $r$ process to occur and a vast lack of knowledge about the properties of nuclei far from stability. One way is to disentangle the nuclear and astrophysical components of the question. On the nuclear physics side, there is great global competition to access and measure the most exotic nuclei that existing facilities can reach, while simultaneously building new, more powerful accelerators to make even more exotic nuclei. On the astrophysics side, various astrophysical scenarios for the production of the heaviest elements have been proposed but open questions remain. This paper reports on a sensitivity study of the $r$ process to determine the most crucial nuclear masses to measure using an $r$-process simulation code, several mass models (FRDM, Duflo-Zuker, and HFB-21), and three potential astrophysical scenarios.