This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

The very early universe, in the first instance after its creation, was filled with a very hot and dense soup of matter, consisting of quarks, leptons and gluons. When the universe expanded and cooled, but still just milliseconds after the Big Bang, quarks and gluons suddenly condensed into protons and neutrons which eventually made up the nuclei of all the chemical elements around us. This process (called the QCD phase transition) and the hot and dense primordial matter (called the Quark Gluon Plasma), can be recreated nowadays in the laboratory in collisions of heavy nuclei with very large energies. Such experiments take place at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in the US and at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe.

In this proposal the PI develops tools that will allow us to (a) understand how a Quark Gluon Plasma is formed in nuclear collisions, and (b) how its properties can be tested. The first part is important to separate the new phase that we want to study (the Quark Gluon Plasma) from the creation mechanism in the lab (the nuclear collision). This should eventually allow us to determine important properties of Quark Gluon Plasma and the nature of the QCD phase transition to much higher accuracy than before.

The second part studies how probes which can penetrate this dense matter, photons and so-called QCD jets, can be used for a tomography of Quark Gluon Plasma and all nuclear matter. This is an existing method which works on a qualitative level, but will be dramatically improved in precision through the planned research.

This proposal also includes an outreach program which will enhance the existing Saturday Morning Physics program at Texas A&M University by involving high school teachers and adding interactive components.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Bogdan Mihaila
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Texas A&M Research Foundation
College Station
United States
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