New Research Suggests The Nuclear Pasta That Lives In Neutron Stars May Be The Toughest Matter In The Universe

To break the nuclear pasta inside neutron stars, it is theorized that you would need 10 billion times the force that is required to break steel.

New research suggests the nuclear pasta found in neutron stars may be strongest material in the universe.
Jurik Peter / Shutterstock

To break the nuclear pasta inside neutron stars, it is theorized that you would need 10 billion times the force that is required to break steel.

New research has suggested that the nuclear pasta found in neutron stars may be the toughest material in the universe, and to crack it you would need a whopping 10 billion times the force that is required to break steel.

As Charles Horowitz of Indiana University Bloomington explained, “This is a crazy-big figure, but the material is also very, very dense, so that helps make it stronger.” As ScienceNews reports, the name ‘nuclear pasta’ may suggest a material that is quite easy to snap, but in reality nuclear pasta is exceedingly robust and next to impossible to break.

When dying stars finally explode, neutron stars rise up to take their place, and gravitational forces that are powerful beyond measure create strong pressure upon these objects. If you were to look just one kilometer inside one of these neutron stars, you would see atomic nuclei that are held so tightly together that they turn into nuclear matter. These clumps of nuclear matter, in theory at least, are believed to resemble objects like sheets, tubes and blobs in general, and as such have been gifted with the name of their pasta counterparts like lasagna, spaghetti and gnocchi.

If you were to travel even further inside of a neutron star, you would see nothing but nuclear matter, which would comprise the entire core of this ex-star. The stuff that is referred to as nuclear pasta is so dense that that even the density of water is 100 trillion times less than this nuclear pasta.

Because of this, nuclear pasta is something that could never be experimented upon and studied in a laboratory and could only be researched through computer simulations, which is what researchers in the new study on the nuclear pasta in neutron stars used to determine its immense strength.

Through computer simulation, researchers were able to take ‘lasagna sheets’ and expand them, slowly stretching them out to see what happened to the material. To do this required huge amounts of pressure, and to actually snap the pasta required such brute strength that it was more difficult to snap in the simulation than any other material.

While previous simulations of this kind have shown that even the outside surface of neutrons stars would be more difficult to break than steel, up until recently no research had been conducted on the inner regions of these neutron stars where the nuclear pasta snugly resides.

As physicist Constança Providência noted, “Now, what the researchers see is that the inner crust is even stronger.”

The new study on the strength of nuclear pasta in neutron stars has been published in Physical Review Letters.