Hot quarks

January 26, 2015
Hot Quarks 2010

The Heavy Flavor Tracker being installed in the heart of the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Credit: Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

Thousands of times a second the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a particle collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory, creates a quark-gluon plasma - a recreation of the hot quark soup that existed at the dawn of the universe. Particles composed of heavy quarks - which go by whimsical names such as "charm" and "beauty" - can help reveal subtle details about the quark-gluon plasma, and by extension, the early universe and the origins of matter.

Nuclear physicists conducting research at RHIC now have the ability to detect these rare, elusive particles using the Heavy Flavor Tracker (HFT), a new component recently installed as part of the STAR experiment. This device will help to precisely measure the plasma's properties, including its ability to flow like a nearly perfect liquid, and can offer insight into how certain particles lose energy as they traverse the plasma.

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