Tracing the evolution of the symmetry energy of hot nuclear fragments from the compound nucleus towards multifragmentation
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The evolution of the symmetry energy coefficient of the binding energy of hot fragments with increasing excitation is explored in multifragmentation processes following heavy-ion collisions below the Fermi energy. In this work, high-resolution mass spectrometric data on isotopic distributions of projectile-like fragments are systematically compared to calculations involving the statistical multifragmentation model (SMM). Within the SMM picture, the present study suggests a gradual decrease of the symmetry energy coefficient of the hot primary fragments from 25 MeV at the compound nucleus regime towards 15 MeV in the multifragmentation regime. The isotopic distributions of the hot primary fragments are found to be very wide and extend towards the neutron drip line. These findings are expected to have important implications in the modeling of the composition and the evolution of hot and dense astrophysical environments, such as those of core-collapse supernova. 2007 The American Physical Society.