Our Experiment

24th August 2018
Water in Solid Vapor and Liquid_0.jpg

Our experimental complex, NICA (Nuclotron-based Ion Collider fAcility), strives to go deeper into fundamental problems to try and solve them. First, let's get some definitions:

  • A Baryon is a subatomic particle made up of three quarks (example: proton, neutron).
  • A Quark is an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter.
  • A Gluon is an elementary particle that acts as the exchange particle for the strong force between quarks.

Our experiment is aimed at studying the properties of matter that is at the maximum baryonic density available in laboratory conditions. We believe that this is the kind of matter that exists in the core of neutron stars and existed in the early stages of our Universe. Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP) is a deconfinement phase of the matter that, according to calculations in Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), exists during high energy heavy ions collisions.

So, we know that H20 can exist in 3 states: ice, water, and vapor (see image 1, below). Changing the parameters of pressure and temperature, we can change the state of H20. Moreover, we can observe the triple (supercritical) point for H20. If the water reaches the specific levels of those parameters, it starts oscillating between its states (Search Youtube for "Triple Point of Water" to see great examples of this). The phase diagram of H20 has been studied extensively for years. Now, we know quite a bit about it.

Pic. 1   Phase diagram of H20
Pic. 2 Phase diagram of strongly interacting matter.

From our calculations, we can predict that we should observe the same situation for every kind of matter (Pic.2). One of those states is the QGP.

There are two ways to free quarks and gluons to change the state of matter from hadronic matter (matter that we observe everywhere) to
Quark Gluon Plasma:

  1. Warm it to 1,000,000,000,000 degrees C
  2. Compress it to 100,000,000 tons per cubic centimeter

Both of those actions happen during heavy ion collisions. NICA is trying to determine the parameters (temperature and net baryonic density) describing that critical point. Moreover, NICA studies the region of the phase diagram of strongly interacting matter where the mix phase (hadronic and QGP phased) appears (See Pic. 2).

So, why do we need the NICA complex? Because, though we've learned quite a bit about matter, like H20, in it's solid, vapor, and liquid phases, we need to understand how and why it shifts. As physicists, we need to study and collect data about the phase diagram of matter and how it moves from state to state. In addition to determining the existence and location of the transition region, there are further fundamental interests to study, for example: the characteristics of phase transitions.

This fundamental research can bring in new and innovative technologies. As we study the phases of matter, we can find all manner of interesting data that can lead to life-changing technologies. When J.J. Thomson first peered at odd deflections in cathode rays, back in 1897, he was looking at the beginnings of a new understanding of matter: electrons! This understanding of HOW electricity moved led to many technological improvements: like the device that you're using to read this!