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Physical Review Letters

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The nuclear matrix element determining the pp -> de(+)v fusion cross section and the Gamow-Teller matrix element contributing to tritium beta decay are calculated with lattice quantum chromodynamics for the first time. Using a new implementation of the background field method, these quantities are calculated at the SU(3) flavor-symmetric value of the quark masses, corresponding to a pion mass of m(pi) similar to 806 MeV. The Gamow-Teller matrix element in tritium is found to be 0.979(03)(10) at these quark masses, which is within 2 sigma of the experimental value. Assuming that the short-distance correlated two-nucleon contributions to the matrix element (meson-exchange currents) depend only mildly on the quark masses, as seen for the analogous magnetic interactions, the calculated pp -> de(+)v transition matrix element leads to a fusion cross section at the physical quark masses that is consistent with its currently accepted value. Moreover, the leading two-nucleon axial counterterm of pionless effective field theory is determined to be L-1,L-A = 3.9(0.2)(1.0)(0.4)(0.9) fm(3) at a renormalization scale set by the physical pion mass, also agreeing within the accepted phenomenological range. This work concretely demonstrates that weak transition amplitudes in few-nucleon systems can be studied directly from the fundamental quark and gluon degrees of freedom and opens the way for subsequent investigations of many important quantities in nuclear physics.


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