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The statistical hadronization model successfully describes the yields of hadrons and light nuclei from central heavy-ion collisions over a wide range of energies. It is a simple and efficient phenomenological framework in which the relative yields for very high energy collisions are essentially determined by a single model parameter—the chemical freeze-out temperature. Recent measurements of yields of hadrons and light nuclei covering over nine orders of magnitudes from the ALICE collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider were described by the model with remarkable accuracy with a chemical freeze-out temperature of 156.5 ± 1.5 MeV. A key physical question is whether (at least to a good approximation) the freeze-out temperature can be understood, literally, as the temperature at which the various species of an equilibrated gas of hadrons (including resonances) and nuclei chemically freeze out, as the model assumes, or whether it successfully parametrizes the yield data for a different reason. This paper analyzes the yields of weakly bound light nuclei—the deuteron and the hypertriton—to probe this issue. Such nuclei are particularly sensitive to assumptions of the model because their binding energies are at a scale far below both typical hadronic scales and the freeze-out temperature. The analysis depends only on outputs of the statistical hadronization model, known hadronic properties and standard assumptions of kinetic theory while making no additional dynamical assumptions about the dynamics of heavy-ion collisions. The analysis indicates that a key assumption underlying the model—that hadrons (and nuclei), just prior to chemical freeze-out temperature, are in thermal equilibrium and are sufficiently dilute as to have particle distributions accurately described statistically by a nearly ideal gas of hadrons and nuclei with masses given by their free space values—appears to be inconsistent with the chemical freeze-out temperature output by the model, at least for these weakly bound nuclei. Implications of this analysis for the interpretation of parameters extracted from the model are discussed.


This work was originally published in Physical Review C.



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