Scientists taking advantage of the versatility and new capabilities of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), an atom smasher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, have observed first glimpses of a possible boundary separating ordinary nuclear matter, composed of protons and neutrons, from the seething soup of their constituent quarks and gluons that permeated the early universe some 14 billion years ago. Though RHIC physicists have been creating and studying this primordial quark-gluon plasma (QGP) for some time, the latest preliminary data come from systematic studies varying the energy and types of colliding ions to create this new form of matter under a broad range of initial conditions, allowing the experimenters to unravel its intriguing properties.
"2012 has been a banner year for RHIC, with record-breaking collision rates, first collisions of uranium ions, and first asymmetric collisions of gold ions with copper ions,” said Samuel Aronson, Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory. “These unique capabilities demonstrate the flexibility and outstanding performance of this machine as we seek to explore the subtle interplay of particles and forces that transformed the QGP of the early universe into the matter that makes up our world today.”
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald