Scientists have uncovered what they are calling "the strongest known material in the universe" and have named it "nuclear pasta".
The material was found by calculating the strength of the material deep inside the crust of neutron stars.
Due to their calculations, they found it to be the strongest known material to exist, ever.
It was uncovered by Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, and his colleagues from Indiana University and the California Institute of Technology. They successfully ran the largest computer simulations ever conducted of neutron star crusts, becoming the first to describe how these break.
"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," said Caplan.
Neutron stars are born after supernovas, an implosion that compresses an object the size of the sun to about the size of Montreal, making them "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth". Their immense gravity makes their outer layers freeze solid, making them similar to earth with a thin crust enveloping a liquid core.
This high density causes the material that makes up a neutron star to have a unique structure. Below the crust, competing forces between the protons and neutrons cause them to assemble into shapes such as long cylinders or flat planes, which are known in the literature as "lasagne" and even "spaghetti", hence the "nuclear pasta" moniker.
Together, the researchers said these enormous densities and strange shapes make nuclear pasta incredibly stiff.
The calculations were worked out thanks to a number of computer simulations, which required two million hours' worth of processor time, or the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU. Thanks to this, Caplan and his colleagues were able to stretch and deform the material deep in the crust of neutron stars.
"Our results are valuable for astronomers who study neutron stars. Their outer layer is the part we actually observe, so we need to understand that in order to interpret astronomical observations of these stars," Caplan added.
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