A systematic search for multicomponent crystal structures is carried out for five different ternary systems of nuclei in a polarizable background of electrons, representative of accreted neutron star crusts and some white dwarfs. Candidate structures are "bred" by a genetic algorithm and optimized at constant pressure under the assumption of linear response (Thomas-Fermi) charge screening. Subsequent phase equilibria calculations reveal eight distinct crystal structures in the T = 0 bulk phase diagrams, five of which are complicated multinary structures not previously predicted in the context of compact object astrophysics. Frequent instances of geometrically similar but compositionally distinct phases give insight into structural preferences of systems with pairwise Yukawa interactions, including and extending to the regime of low-density colloidal suspensions made in a laboratory. As an application of these main results, we self-consistently couple the phase stability problem to the equations for a self-gravitating, hydrostatically stable white dwarf, with fixed overall composition. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to incorporate complex multinary phases into the equilibrium phase-layering diagram and mass-radius-composition dependence, both of which are reported for He-C-O and C-O-Ne white dwarfs. Finite thickness interfacial phases ("interphases") show up at the boundaries between single-component body-centered cubic (bcc) crystalline regions, some of which have lower lattice symmetry than cubic. A second application - quasi-static settling of heavy nuclei in white dwarfs - builds on our equilibrium phase-layering method. Tests of this nonequilibrium method reveal extra phases that play the role of transient host phases for the settling species.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science