Neutron-upscattering enhancement of the triple-alpha process

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The neutron inelastic scattering of carbon-12, populating the Hoyle state, is a reaction of interest for the triple-alpha process. The inverse process (neutron upscattering) can enhance the Hoyle state’s decay rate to the bound states of <sup>12<sup/>C, effectively increasing the overall triple-alpha reaction rate. The cross section of this reaction is impossible to measure experimentally but has been determined here at astrophysically-relevant energies using detailed balance. Using a highly-collimated monoenergetic beam, here we measure neutrons incident on the Texas Active Target Time Projection Chamber (TexAT TPC) filled with CO<jats:sub/>2 gas, we measure the 3α-particles (arising from the decay of the Hoyle state following inelastic scattering) and a cross section is extracted. Here we show the neutron-upscattering enhancement is observed to be much smaller than previously expected. The importance of the neutron-upscattering enhancement may therefore not be significant aside from in very particular astrophysical sites (e.g. neutron star mergers).
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2022


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