A particle collider has managed to create tiny droplets of primordial fluid.
The particle collider at the U.S. Department of Energy successively crashes nuclei at very high speeds. Thus certain primordial particles are produced which were there during the early phases of the universe. This particle collider is called Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).
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New RHIC data just accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters. Over a thousand people collaborated on the experiment that took place at the facility. The soup of particles that got created is termed quark-gluon plasma. And it functions like a smooth substance. Many other particles also produce this primordial soup when smashed into each other.
The little droplets of primordial soup were quite a shock to scientists when they saw them for the first time. No one had expected such a thing to exist in the first place. Originally it was thought that only gold and other rare metals had the properties needed to create a quark-gluon plasma.
But now that view has been revised. It appears that there are many alternatives. Smaller particles can be used to create the soup too. Earlier on particles known as deuterons were collided with gold ions to produce significant results. Furthermore, proton-lead and proton-proton collisions took place too.
"These tiny droplets of quark-gluon plasma were at first an intriguing surprise," said Berndt Mueller, Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics at Brookhaven.
"Physicists initially thought that only the nuclei of large atoms such as gold would have enough matter and energy to set free the quark and gluon building blocks that make up protons and neutrons. But the flow patterns detected by RHIC's PHENIX collaboration in collisions of helium-3 nuclei with gold ions now confirm that these smaller particles are creating tiny samples of perfect liquid QGP."
Basically the collisions of large particles with smaller ones produce the quark-gluon plasma. Several experiments have taken place so far and the results have been conclusive. The quark-gluon plasma is the perfect liquid alright.
It exhibits a geometrical flow pattern in its properties. As for the gold-gold collisions, they show an elliptical pattern in the liquid they produce. The particles behave in a linked up manner.
Smaller particles were used in conjunction with larger particles in the initial control experiments. Later on proton-proton collisions and gold-gold collisions followed. Finally, lead-lead collisions were to take place too.
The perfect liquid is what was obtained as a result of all these collisions. The experiments were a success. The ultimate goal was the control of the shape of the particles concerned. It was a task at first but later on things flowed smoothly.
"The idea that collisions of small particles with larger nuclei might create minute droplets of primordial quark-gluon plasma has guided a series of experiments to test this idea and alternative explanations, and stimulated a rich debate about the implications of these findings," said University of Colorado physicist Jamie Nagle, a co-spokesperson of the PHENIX collaboration at RHIC.
"These experiments are revealing the key elements required for creating quark-gluon plasma and could also offer insight into the initial state characteristics of the colliding particles."
There have even been helium-gold collisions. The elliptical and triangular series of flows generated are as would have been expected. Some things still remain a mystery but they will be solved in due time.
"At this time, the only theoretical framework that reproduces the patterns we're observing in deuteron-gold and helium-3-gold collisions is fluid dynamics," said Bjoern Schenke, a nuclear theorist at Brookhaven Lab. "It remains to be seen if alternative models can describe these patterns as well."
Meanwhile, the interaction of gluons within the particles is the root cause of the plasma production. Fluid dynamics is the base model used to predict this phenomenon. More research regarding the matter will continue in future times.
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"The good news is that RHIC, with its unrivaled versatility, will likely be able to study any system that can discriminate between different models," Mueller said.