The nucleon-nucleon interaction is an important requirement for investigations of nuclear structure and reactions, as well as for astrophysical models such as r-process nucleosynthesis and neutron stars. The traditional approach to low-energy nuclear physics is to treat nucleons as immutable objects interacting via phenomenological forces. The use of phenomenological interactions, rather than one derived from a microscopic theory, raises questions as to the reliability of predictions for exotic regions of the nuclear chart. The quark-meson coupling (QMC) model uses a relativistic mean-field approach to provide a microscopically derived nucleon-nucleon interaction, which takes into account the quark structure of the nucleon.
The Skyrme energy density functional is a popular phenomenological tool in studies of nuclear structure and reactions. In this work, the QMC density functional was used to produce a set of Skyrme parameterisations, in the hopes that they will give more reliable predictions for exotic nuclei. In conjunction with Hartree-Fock-Bogoliubov (HFB) calculations, the Skyrme-QMC (SQMC) parameterisations have been used to model the ground-state properties of individual nuclei. From this, one can investigate the importance of the isovector terms of the nucleon-nucleon interaction, which are particularly significant for exotic, neutron-rich regions of the nuclear chart.
One of the notable successes of the QMC model is its derivation of nuclear spin-orbit coupling. The isovector dependence of the spin-orbit equation of state is remarkably similar to that of the modern UNEDF1 phenomenological density functional. HFB calculations along the Sn isotopic chain reveal that the isovector properties of the spin-orbit term impact binding energies to a level that will be significant for astrophysical r-process modelling.