Published: Fri, September 21, 2018
Science | By

The Strongest Material in the Universe Could Be (Nuclear) Pasta

The Strongest Material in the Universe Could Be (Nuclear) Pasta

Neutron stars are remnants of massive stars that collapse under their own gravity. Now a new analysis has discovered "nuclear pasta", which is the strongest material in the entire universe. - But if, suddenly, teaspoon of nuclear pasta magically teleported here, without the gravity of a neutron star immediately would explode like a nuclear bomb.

Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, and his colleagues from Indiana University and the California Institute of Technology, successfully ran the largest computer simulations ever conducted of neutron star crusts, becoming the first to describe how these break.

Because of the enormous gravity, the outer layers of neutron stars freeze solid to form a crust that surrounds a liquid core. Underneath the crust, powerful forces roil between the neutrons and protons inside the neutron star's matter, causing the material to take on some surprising shapes, like long cylinders and flat planes. Still, it's hard to argue it's not appropriate: scientists studying neutron stars have theorized that the masses of neutrons within these unusual objects group together to form structures that look suspiciously like Italian pasta, and have even gone so far as to classify them with names like "gnocchi" and "lasagna".

"This allowed us to calculate how much they are durable. Put simply, despite its strength, no one is going to build anything out of this stuff".

The density of nuclear pasta makes it 10 times stronger than steel. The results suggest that the neutron star's density made the nuclear pasta an astounding 10 billion times stronger than steel.


The existence of gravitational waves is one of the proofs of the existence of black holes and theory of relativity.

"Our results are valuable for astronomers who study neutron stars".

"The strength of the neutron star crust, especially the bottom of the crust, is relevant to a large number of astrophysics problems, but isn't well understood", says Caplan. Understanding how this nuclear pasta works is a key concern for our lasagna-loving scientists. If such landforms neutron stars do exist - sooner or later, astrophysicists will be able to capture gravitational waves from these celestial objects.

The findings, accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters, could help astrophysicists better understand gravitational waves like those detected a year ago when two neutron stars collided. "Maybe I'll try spaghetti next", Caplan said.

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