Neutron Pasta Is Ten Billion Times Stronger Than Steel

Feeling tensed…? Eat Pasta. There’s Pappardelle, Campanella, Gnocchi and many others that you would love to eat! With the onset of time, we are progressing further and further in the art of spaghetti making.  And guess what? Scientist just discovered some more spaghetti! But unlike others, you can’t eat that, doing so will crack your jaw open as that’s made of a neutron star, being 10 billion times stronger than steel!

Well, A neutron star is the collapsed core of a large star which before collapse had a total of between 10 and 29 solar masses. As the star collapses, proton and electron combine to form neutrons and neutrinos. Neutrinos escape, leading to the formation of what is known as a “Neutron star”.The crush of gravity is so immense that a neutron star just a few miles across could have twice the mass of our sun!

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Neutron Star, Credits: Space.com

The incredible pull of the star crumbles and squeezes neutrons into unusual configurations, based on the models developed by scientists studying neutron stars. The resulting nuclear structures are thought to resemble pasta – hence the name – forming just inside the star’s crust. Near the surface, there’s gnocchi, which is round bubble-like neutrons. Go a bit deeper, and the pressure forces neutrons into long tubes called spaghetti. Go further down, and you have sheets of neutrons called lasagna.

“Our results show that nuclear pasta may be the strongest known material, perhaps with a shear modulus of 1030 ergs/cm3 and breaking strain greater than 0.1.”

Since such “Extreme” lab settings aren’t available to us via the current tech, so the researchers from McGill University, Indiana University, and the California Institute of Technology had to rely upon the power of computer-generated simulations. The result was found that the force needed to break nuclear pasta was 10 billion times the force needed to break steel.

“Additionally,” the researchers wrote in their paper, “the large strength and density of nuclear pasta predicted by this work suggest that neutron stars may support large ‘buried’ mountains in the inner crust.”

 

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Growth around a neutral star, Credits: NASA

The simulations also suggest that the instability of nuclear pasta could result in gravitational waves, which have only been confirmed in cataclysmic events like the collision of two black holes. But with our current technology, confirming these subtle waves is way impossible. But maybe future upgrades to LIGO could improve its sensitivity. Or the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) observatory, planned to be launched in 2034 might be able to detect these faint waves and confirm the model.

As the material is held together by enormous pressure, It just simply can’t exist outside the star. Although there may not be any practical application of the material, it could help us better understand and develop the cosmological model of the universe, and might one day unravel The Secrets of the Universe!

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