The aim of the paper is to present a new transport process which is likely to have great importance for understanding the internal constitution of the stars.
In order to set the problem in context, we first give a short presentation of the physical properties of the Sun and stars, described usually under the names Standard Solar Model or Standard Stellar Models (SSM). Next we show that an important shortcoming of SSM is that they do not explain the age dependence of the lithium deficiency of stars of known age: stars of galactic clusters and the Sun. It was suggested a long time ago that the presence of a macroscopic diffusion process in the radiative zone should be assumed, below the surface convective zone of solar-like stars. It is then possible for the lithium present in the convective zone to be carried to the thermonuclear burning level below the convective zone. The first assumption was that differential rotation generates turbulence and therefore that a turbulent diffusion process takes place. However, this model predicts a lithium abundance which is strongly rotation dependent, contrary to the observations. Furthermore, as the diffusion coefficient is large all over the radiative zone, it prevents the possibility of gravitational separation by diffusion and consequently leads to the impossibility of explaining the difference in helium abundance between the surface and the centre of the Sun. The consequence is obviously that we need to take into account another physical process.
Stars having a mass M < 1.3M[odot ] have a convective zone which begins close to the stellar surface and extends down to a depth which is an appreciable fraction of the stellar radius. In the convective zone, strong stochastic motions carry, at least partially, heat transfer. These motions do not vanish at the lower boundary and generate internal waves into the radiative zone. These random internal waves are at the origin of a diffusion process which can be considered as responsible for the diffusive transport of lithium down to the lithium burning level. This is certainly not the only physical process responsible for lithium deficiency in main sequence stars, but its properties open the way to a completely consistent analysis of lithium deficiency.
The model of generation of gravity waves is based on a model of heat transport in the convective zone by diving plumes. The horizontal component of the turbulent motion at the boundary of the convective zone is assumed to generate the horizontal motion of internal waves. The result is a large horizontal component of the diffusion coefficient, which produces in a short time an horizontally uniform chemical composition. It is known that gravity waves, in the absence of any dissipative process, cannot generate vertical mixing. Therefore, the vertical component of the diffusion coefficient is entirely dependent on radiative damping. It decreases quickly in the radiative zone, but is large enough to be responsible for lithium burning.
Owing to the radial dependence of velocity amplitude, the diffusion coefficient increases when approaching the stellar centre. However, very close to the centre, nonlinear dissipative and radiative damping of internal waves become large and the diffusion coefficient vanishes at the very centre.