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This a review of the present status of heavy-ion collisions at intermediate energies. The main goal of heavy-ion physics in this energy regime is to shed some light on the nuclear equation of state (EOS), hence we present the basic concept of the EOS in nuclear matter as well as of nuclear shock waves which provide the key mechanism for the compression of nuclear matter. The main part of this article is devoted to the models currently used for describing heavy-ion reactions theoretically and to the observables useful for extracting information about the EOS from experiments. A detailed discussion of the flow effects with a broad comparison with the avaible data is presented. The many-body aspects of such reactions are investigated via the multifragmentation break up of excited nuclear systems and a comparison of model calculations with the most recent multifragmentation experiments is presented.

We investigate the onset of multifragmentation employing an improved version of the N-body ‘‘quantum’’ molecular-dynamics approach. We study in detail the reaction 18O+197Au at 84 MeV/nucleon and find good agreement between the calculated results and the data for the double-differential proton cross section, the mass yield, the multiplicity, the kinetic energy of the fragments, and even for the kinematic correlations between intermediate mass fragments (IMF’s), which have been measured in this experiment for the first time. We observe a strong correlation between the impact parameter and both the size of the target remnant as well as the average proton multiplicity. Hence both observables can be used to determine the impact parameter experimentally. The IMF’s come from the most central collisions. The calculations confirm the experimental result that they are not emitted from an equilibrated system. Although the inclusive energy spectra look thermal, we cannot identify an impact parameter-independent isotropically emitting source. Even in central collisions global equilibrium is not observed. We find that multifragment emission at this bombarding energy is caused by a process very similar to that proposed in the macroscopic cold multifragmentation model. Thus it has a different origin than at beam energies around 1 GeV/nucleon, although the mass yield has an almost identical slope.

The quantum molecular dynamic method is used to study multifragmentation and fragment flow and their dependence on in-medium cross sections, momentum dependent interactions, and the nuclear equation of state, for collisions of 197Au+197Au and 93Nb+93Nb in the bombarding energy regime from 100 to 800A MeV. Time and impact parameter dependence of the fragment formation and their implications for the conjectured liquid-vapor phase transition are investigated. We find that the inclusive fragment mass distribution is independent of the equation of state and exhibits a power-law behavior Y(A)∼A-τ with an exponent τ≊-2.3. True multifragmentation events are found in central collisions for energies Elab∼30–200 MeV/nucleon. The associated light fragment (d,t,α) to proton ratios increase with the multiplicity of charged particles and decrease with energy, in agreement with recent experiments. The calculated absolute charged particle multiplicities, the multiplicities of intermediate mass (A>4) fragments, and their respective rapidity distributions do compare well with recent 4π data, but are quite insensitive to the equation of state. On the other hand, these quantities depend sensitively on the nucleon-nucleon scattering cross section, and can be used to determine σ experimentally. The transverse momentum flow of the complex fragments increases with the stiffness of the equation of state. Reduced (in-medium) n-n scattering cross sections reduce the fragment flow. Momentum dependent interactions increase the fragment flow. It is shown that the measured fragment flow at 200A MeV can be reproduced in the model. We find that also the increase of the px/A values with the fragment mass is in agreement with experiments. The calculated fragment flow is too small as compared to the plastic ball data, if a soft equation of state with in-medium corrections (momentum dependent interactions plus reduced cross sections) is employed. An alternative, most intriguing resolution of the puzzle about the stiffness of the equation of state could be an increase of the scattering cross sections due to precritical scattering in the vicinity of a phase transition.

A quasiclassical Pauli potential is used to simulate the Fermi motion of nucleons in a molecular dynamical simulation of heavy ion collisions. The thermostatic properties of a Fermi gas with and without interactions are presented. The inclusion of this Pauli potential into the quantum molecular dynamics (QMD) approach yields a model with well defined fermionic ground states, which is therefore also able to give the excitation energies of the emitted fragments. The deexcitation mechanisms (particle evaporation and multifragmentation) of the new model are investigated. The dynamics of the QMD with Pauli potential is tested by a wide range of comparisons of calculated and experimental double-differential cross sections for inclusive p-induced reactions at incident energies of 80 to 160 MeV. Results at 256 and 800 MeV incident proton energy are presented as predictions for completed experiments which are as yet unpublished.

The statistical model is used to illustrate the consequences of a successive binary decay mechanism as the initial nuclear excitation is pushed towards the limits of stability. The partition of the excitation energy between light and heavy fragments is explicitly calculated, as are the consequences of the decay of the primary light fragments to particle-bound residual nuclei which would be observed experimentally. The test nucleus 100 44 Ru is considered at initial excitations of 100, 200, 400, and 800 MeV. Exit channels of n, p, and α; and 100 clusters of 3 ≤ Z ≤ 20 ≤ 4, 6 ≤ A ≤ 48 are considered from all nuclides in the deexcitation cascade. The total primary and final cluster yields are shown versus Z and initial excitation. The primary versus final yields are also shown individually for 12C, 26Mg, and 48Ca. We show how multifragmentation yields will change with the excitation energy due to a successive binary decay mechanism. Measurements that may be prone to misinterpretation are discussed, as are those that should be representative of initial nucleus excitation.

Experimental results are presented on the charge, velocity, and angular distributions of intermediate mass fragments (IMFs) for the reaction Fe+Au at bombarding energies of 50 and 100 MeV/nucleon. Results are compared to the quantum molecular dynamics (QMD) model and a modified QMD which includes a Pauli potential and follows the subsequent statistical decay of excited reaction products. The more complete model gives a good representation of the data and suggests that the major source of IMFs at large angles is due to multifragmentation of the target residue.

Stopping power and thermalization in relativistic heavy ion collisions is investigated employing the quantum molecular dynamics approach. For heavy systems stopping of the incoming nuclei is predicted, independent of the energy. The influence of the quantum effects and their increasing importance at low energies, is demonstrated by inspection of the mean free path of the nucleons and the n-n collision number. Classical models, which neglect these effects, overestimate the stopping and the thermalization as well as the collective flow and squeeze out. The sensitivity of the transverse and longitudinal momentum transfer to the in-medium cross section and to the pressure is investigated.

We demonstrate that momentum-dependent nuclear interactions (MDI) have a large effect on the dynamics and on the observables of high-energy heavy-ion collisions: A soft potential with MDI suppresses pion and kaon yields much more strongly than a local hard potential and results in transverse momenta intermediate between soft and hard local potentials. The collective-flow angles and the deuteron-to-proton ratios are rather insensitive to the MDI. Only simultaneous measurements of these observables can give clues on the nuclear equation of state at densities of interest for supernova collapse and neutron-star stability.