Keele Professor joins €5 million nuclear astrophysics network

A Keele professor is part of a €5 million European research network designed to boost engagement with nuclear astrophysics research.

Raphael Hirschi, Professor of Stellar Hydrodynamics and Nuclear Astrophysics at Keele University, joins colleagues from across Europe as he takes his place as part of the newly formed network, ChETEC-INFRA (Chemical Elements as Tracers of the Evolution of the Cosmos - Infrastructures for Nuclear Astrophysics).

Professor Hirschi, said: "This new European-wide project is exciting and builds upon the ChETEC COST Action that I have been leading over the past four years.

“It provides a unique opportunity to support the nuclear astrophysics community with the tools and facilities to make scientific breakthroughs concerning the evolution of stars and galaxies, answering questions such as those on what stars are we made of, and what the range is of stellar black hole masses."

Keele has been awarded €172,000 as part of €5 million funding by the European Union, within its call for starting communities of research infrastructures - facilities that provide resources and services for research communities to foster innovation - and aims to devote considerable resources to science outreach, educating the next generation of researchers, and to bring coherence to this research field.

Professor Hirschi and his group will lead the part of the project that will provide the nuclear astrophysics community with stellar nucleosynthesis software tools and user-friendly support to use these tools within a High-Performance Computing (HPC) framework. HPC will be used for example to study the interplay between nuclear reactions and turbulence inside stars.

Vertical cross-section of the turbulent flow inside a star where carbon fusion at the bottom of the image makes the plasma buoyant and drives turbulence. The colour indicates the speed of the plasma.

The Keele team will also contribute to the development of masterclasses in nuclear astrophysics for high school students.

The network will create new opportunities for research in nuclear astrophysics by encouraging smaller EU countries with no established nuclear astrophysics groups to engage in research, by granting them access to a diverse set of research infrastructures from telescopes obtaining stellar spectra, to laboratories studying element production, to supercomputers needed to model these processes.

The network is led by Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf Research laboratory in Germany and involves 13 small to medium-size research infrastructures embedded in 32 institutions across Europe.