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Phase transitions in core-collapse supernova matter at sub-saturation densities
Authors: Helena Pais, William G. Newton, and Jirina R. Stone
Ref.: Phys. Rev. C 90, 065802 (2014)
Abstract: Phase transitions in hot, dense matter in the collapsing cores of massive stars have an important impact on the core-collapse supernova mechanism as they absorb heat, disrupt homology, and so weaken the developing shock. We perform a three-dimensional, finite temperature Skyrme-Hartree-Fock (SHF) study of inhomogeneous nuclear matter to determine the critical density and temperature for the phase transition between the pasta phase and homogeneous matter and its properties. We employ four different parametrizations of the Skyrme nuclear energy-density functional, SkM*, SLy4, NRAPR, and SQMC700, which span a range of saturation-density symmetry energy behaviors constrained by a variety of nuclear experimental probes. For each of these interactions we calculate free energy, pressure, entropy, and chemical potentials in the range of particle number densities where the nuclear pasta phases are expected to exist, 0.02-0.12 fm-3, temperatures 2-8 MeV, and a proton fraction of 0.3. We find unambiguous evidence for a first-order phase transition to uniform matter, unsoftened by the presence of the pasta phases. No conclusive signs of a first-order phase transition between the pasta phases is observed, and it is argued that the thermodynamic quantities vary continuously right up to the first-order phase transition to uniform matter. We compare our results with thermodynamic spinodals calculated using the same Skyrme parametrizations, finding that the effect of short-range Coulomb correlations and quantum shell effects included in our model leads to the pasta phases existing at densities up to 0.01 fm-3 above the spinodal boundaries, thus increasing the transition density to uniform matter by the same amount. The transition density is otherwise shown to be insensitive to the symmetry energy at saturation density within the range constrained by the concordance of a variety of experimental constraints, and can be taken to be a well determined quantity.