Nuclear clustering describes the appearance of structures resembling smaller nuclei such as alpha particles (4He nuclei) within the interior of a larger nucleus. While clustering is important for several well-known examples, little is known about the general nature of clustering in nuclei. In this letter we present lattice Monte Carlo calculations based on chiral effective field theory for the ground states of helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen isotopes. By computing model-independent measures that probe three- and four-nucleon correlations at short distances, we determine the effective number of alpha clusters in any nucleus as well as their shape compared to alpha particles in vacuum. We also introduce a new computational approach called the pinhole algorithm, which solves a long-standing deficiency of auxiliary-field Monte Carlo simulations in computing density correlations relative to the center of mass. We use the pinhole algorithm to determine the proton and neutron density distributions and the geometry of cluster correlations in 12C, 14C, and 16C. The structural similarities among the carbon isotopes suggest that 14C and 16C have excitations analogous to the well-known Hoyle state resonance in 12C.
S. Elhatisari, E. Epelbaum, H. Krebs, et. al.
Mon, 20 Feb 17
Comments: 5 + 9 pages (main + supplemental materials), 4 + 6 figures (main + supplemental materials)