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Ab initio predictions link the neutron skin of 208Pb to nuclear forces

Hu, Baishan; Jaing, Weiguang; Miyagi, Takayuki; Sun, Zhonghao; Ekström, Andreas; Forssén, Christian; Hagen, Gaute; Holt, Jason D.; Papenbrock, Thomas; Stroberg, S. Ragnar; Vernon, Ian

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Baishan Hu

Weiguang Jaing

Takayuki Miyagi

Zhonghao Sun

Andreas Ekström

Christian Forssén

Gaute Hagen

Jason D. Holt

Thomas Papenbrock

S. Ragnar Stroberg


Heavy atomic nuclei have an excess of neutrons over protons, which leads to the formation of a neutron skin whose thickness is sensitive to details of the nuclear force. This links atomic nuclei to properties of neutron stars, thereby relating objects that differ in size by orders of magnitude. The nucleus 208Pb is of particular interest because it exhibits a simple structure and is experimentally accessible. However, computing such a heavy nucleus has been out of reach for ab initio theory. By combining advances in quantum many-body methods, statistical tools and emulator technology, we make quantitative predictions for the properties of 208Pb starting from nuclear forces that are consistent with symmetries of low-energy quantum chromodynamics. We explore 109 different nuclear force parameterizations via history matching, confront them with data in select light nuclei and arrive at an importance-weighted ensemble of interactions. We accurately reproduce bulk properties of 208Pb and determine the neutron skin thickness, which is smaller and more precise than a recent extraction from parity-violating electron scattering but in agreement with other experimental probes. This work demonstrates how realistic two- and three-nucleon forces act in a heavy nucleus and allows us to make quantitative predictions across the nuclear landscape.


Hu, B., Jaing, W., Miyagi, T., Sun, Z., Ekström, A., Forssén, C., …Vernon, I. (2022). Ab initio predictions link the neutron skin of 208Pb to nuclear forces. Nature Physics, 18(10), 1196-1200.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 11, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 22, 2022
Publication Date 2022-10
Deposit Date Jun 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 1, 2023
Journal Nature Physics
Print ISSN 1745-2473
Electronic ISSN 1745-2481
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 10
Pages 1196-1200


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