LPC scientists help reveal quark gluon plasma properties

Members of the LHC Physics Center at Fermilab pose with the first paper published by the CMS collaboration in February 2010. LPC members worked with heavy ion physicists to produce a recent result on quark gluon plasma. Credit: Elizabeth Clements.

Scientists from the LHC Physics Center at Fermilab recently helped to uncover further evidence of a state of matter scientists tie to the birth of the universe.

Their research gives scientists new insights into the properties of quark gluon plasma, a state of matter physicists think existed split seconds after the Big Bang.

Members of the LPC worked with heavy ion physicists at CERN and at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris to complete the research in about a month.

“From the first plot to the paper in four weeks was a remarkably short time,” said LPC physicist Ian Shipsey. “The seven-hour time difference produced a communication challenge but also an opportunity to work around the clock.”

In the world we observe today, quarks are bound with other quarks and gluons. The quark gluon plasma is an unusual state of matter in which single quarks and gluons float free. The exotic material is more than 100,000 times hotter than the inside of the sun and denser than a neutron star.

The LPC physicists and their collaborators found that the quark gluon plasma seemed to break apart composite particles called upsilons, which are made up of bottom quarks and their antiparticles. The upsilons studied here come in three states: one tightly bound state and two less tightly bound excited states.

CMS scientists observed that a larger fraction of the upsilons they detected in 2.76 TeV heavy ion collisions, as opposed to proton-proton collisions at the same energy, were in the tightly bound state. Scientists such as Shipsey hope that the observation can provide them with information about the temperature of the quark gluon plasma, a fundamental parameter necessary to learn more about this state.

“To be part of CMS at this time is the greatest privilege of our careers,” he said. “This is just the beginning. The best is yet to come.”

Learn more about the quark gluon plasma study results.

Kathryn Grim