Free-energy model for fluid helium at high density Article - 2005

Christophe Winisdoerffer, Gilles Chabrier

Christophe Winisdoerffer, Gilles Chabrier, « Free-energy model for fluid helium at high density  », Physical Review E : Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics, 2005, p. 026402. ISSN 1539-3755


We present a semi-analytical free-energy model aimed at characterizing the thermodynamic properties of dense fluid helium, from the low-density atomic phase to the high-density fully ionized regime. The model is based on a free-energy minimization method and includes various different contributions representative of the correlations between atomic and ionic species and electrons. This model allows the computation of the thermodynamic properties of dense helium over an extended range of density and temperature and leads to the computation of the phase diagram of dense fluid helium, with its various temperature and pressure ionization contours. One of the predictions of the model is that pressure ionization occurs abruptly at $\rho \simgr 10$ g cm$^-3$, \it i.e. $P\simgr 20$ Mbar, from atomic helium He to fully ionized helium He$^2+$, or at least to a strongly ionized state, without He$^+$ stage, except at high enough temperature for temperature ionization to become dominant. These predictions and this phase diagram provide a guide for future dynamical experiments or numerical first-principle calculations aimed at studying the properties of helium at very high density, in particular its metallization. Indeed, the characterization of the helium phase diagram bears important consequences for the thermodynamic, magnetic and transport properties of cool and dense astrophysical objects, among which the solar and the numerous recently discovered extrasolar giant planets.

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