CERN Smashes Heavy Nuclei At Record High Energy

Posted: Nov 26 2015, 3:13am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


CERN Smashes Heavy Nuclei at Record High Energy
One of the very first collisions recorded between two lead ions at the LHC's top energy. The energy in the center-of-mass system is approximately 1000 TeV. Todays events bring collisions physics into a new energy scale, that of PeV (Peta-electron-volts). The ALICE detector registered tens of thousands of particles. In this live display the tracks of the particles from the collision point and through the detector are shown in colors corresponding to their mass and type. Credit: CERN
  • CERN Smashes Heavy Particles at High Energy Levels

CERN has set a new record by smashing heavy particles at high energy levels in Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The accelerator known the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is the most powerful on the face of the globe. A new experiment took place there recently. Lead nuclei were smashed together under high velocity. The energy levels were pretty high too.

Protons had been smashed together regularly since the summer months. But now it was time for lead nuclei to be brought into a collision course with each other. These nuclei are pretty large in size. 

The nuclei of lead have 208 neutrons and protons. The interaction of various particles at high densities was the objective. This will lend us clues as to how the conditions were at the time of the Big Bang.

A few billionths of a second after the Big Bang, the universe probably consisted of a hot and thick primordial soup. The fundamental particles present at this crucial time were quarks and gluons.

The soup is termed the quark-gluon-plasma (QGP). About one millionths of a second after the Big Bang though the quarks and the gluons got trapped inside the protons and neutrons. Thus we have the present-day nuclei of atoms. 

The strong force keeps the quarks bound to each other thanks to the gluons. And together these are trapped inside the atomic nuclei. However, the quarks and gluons could be separated thereby creating a liquid state of sorts.

This would be very similar to the state in which the early universe existed. This state was attained via the highest temperatures possible in the LHC. And all it took was a few lead ions.

The collision energy levels reached a value of 1000 TeV. It is almost the same as a flying insect striking us on the cheek on a sultry summer day. But notice that the energy is concentrated in a space that is a billion, billion, billion times smaller. There the scenario changes. 

"The collision energy between two nuclei reaches 1000 TeV. This energy is that of a bumblebee hitting us on the cheek on a summer day. But the energy is concentrated in a volume that is approximately 10-27 (a billion-billion-billion) times smaller. The energy concentration (density) is therefore tremendous and has never been realised before under terrestrial conditions," explains Jens Jørgen Gaardhøje, professor at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and head of the Danish research group within the ALICE experiment at CERN.

The energy concentration is so great that such has never been accomplished by human beings before. At least not in terrestriality so far. The whole goal of the experiment was to transform all that energy into matter.

The quarks and anti-quarks were released in accordance with Einstein’s famous E=MC2 equation. The small material that was produced has a temperature of 4000 billion degrees. The collisions got recorded with alacrity.

More than 30,000 particles were produced as a result of each collision. This experiment will enable us to better understand the state of matter and energy during the early stages of the universe. 

"While it is still too early for a full analysis to have been carried out, the first collisions already tell us that more than 30,000 particles can be created in every central collision between two lead ions. This corresponds to an unprecedented energy density of around 20 GeV/fm3. This is more than 40 times the energy density of a proton," says Jens Jørgen Gaardhøje.

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