Forging the heaviest elements
Invited presentation on 03/2023
A complete understanding of the origin of the elements on the periodic table is one of the most challenging problems in all of physics. The elements of the periodic table are forged in the cosmos, but evidence shows that these elements are not generated at the same time nor the same place. Particularly difficult to describe is the origin of the heaviest elements (like uranium and thorium), which are thought to be synthesized via the rapid capture of free neutrons known as the "r process". This process may ensue in rare classes of supernovae or in compact object mergers such as neutron star-neutron-star binaries or neutron star-black hole binaries. I will provide an overview of the r-process nucleosynthesis and discuss the present challenges involved in this multidisciplinary field. A collaborative effort between theory and experiments (some of which could be performed at TUNL) will help to elucidate many of the present unknowns.