Phase coexistence in nuclei

Abstract : In this work the general theory of first order phase transitions in finite systems is discussed, with a special emphasis to the conceptual problems linked to a thermodynamic description for small, short-lived systems de-exciting in the vacuum as nuclear samples coming from heavy ion collisions. After a short review of the general theory of phase transitions in the framework of information theory, we will present the different possible extensions to the field of finite systems. The concept of negative heat capacity, developed in the early seventies in the context of self-gravitating systems, will be reinterpreted in the general framework of convexity anomalies of thermostatistical potentials. The connection with the distribution of the order parameter will lead us to a definition of first order phase transitions in finite systems based on topology anomalies of the event distribution in the space of observations. A careful study of the thermodynamic limit will provide a bridge with the standard theory of phase transitions and show that in a wide class of physical situations the different statistical ensembles are irreducibly inequivalent. In the second part of the paper we will apply the theoretical ideas developed in the first part to the possible observation of a liquid-to-gas-like phase transition in heavy ion collisions. The applicability of equilibrium concepts in a dynamical collisional process without boundary conditions will first be critically discussed. The observation of abnormally large partial energy fluctuations in carefully selected samples of collisions detected with the MULTICS-Miniball and INDRA array will then be reported as a strong evidence of a first order phase transition with negative heat capacity in the nuclear equation of state.
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F. Gulminelli. Phase coexistence in nuclei. Annales de Physique, EDP Sciences, 2004, 29, pp.1-121. ⟨10.1051/anphys:2005005⟩. ⟨in2p3-00025400⟩

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