The evolution of the elements

Galactic Chemical Evolution

Although the big bang gave birth to our universe, most of the elements were subsequently produced in stars. As stars burn out, their ashes are recycled into new stars, a process that continues to the present. Nuclear astrophysicists study these nuclear furnaces, both by modelling stars and by reproducing their nuclear reactions in the laboratory. A first step in this process is the seemingly simple question: which nuclear reactions are most critical to understanding the synthesis of the elements in stars?

A detailed understanding of how stars are modelled is crucial to our research program aimed at measuring important nuclear reactions for astrophysics. Using advanced Monte Carlo methods to determine realistic uncertainties for elemental synthesis we hope to answer the question posed above, identifying key reactions that should be measured in the laboratory. These key reactions become the focus of our experiments. This merging of an experimental program with theoretical modelling expertise is unique to our research program.

The reactions most critical in stars are often the most challenging to measure in the laboratory. We can investigate the important aspects of the reactions with novel techniques, and then use well established methods to calculate their frequency in stars. We utilize these techniques at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL), one of the U. S. Department of Energy Centers of Excellence. Click here for more details about our facilities.

See the Publications page for more information on our recent research accomplishments.