The atomic nucleus is composed of two different kinds of fermions: protons and neutrons. If the protons and neutrons did not interact, the Pauli exclusion principle would force the majority of fermions (usually neutrons) to have a higher average momentum. Our high-energy electron-scattering measurements using 12C, 27Al, 56Fe, and 208Pb targets show that even in heavy, neutron-rich nuclei, short-range interactions between the fermions form correlated high-momentum neutron-proton pairs. Thus, in neutron-rich nuclei, protons have a greater probability than neutrons to have momentum greater than the Fermi momentum. This finding has implications ranging from nuclear few-body systems to neutron stars and may also be observable experimentally in two-spin-state, ultracold atomic gas systems.
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