Comprehensive Studies of Extreme Phases of Nuclear Matter
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Physical reality is described in modern physics using four fundamental forces: the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity. The strong nuclear force is responsible for a long list of phenomena that are crucial to the existence of the universe. For example, the strong force holds together atomic nuclei, it fuels the burning of the sun and all other stars, and it governed the fate of the very early universe. Although the fundamental equations describing the strong force (or quantum chromodynamics, QCD) were written down four decades ago, an in-depth understanding of its properties is still lacking. This project will help advance the understanding of key features of the strong force at very high temperatures and densities. At temperatures of about 1,000,000,000,000 degrees all matter subject to the strong nuclear force forms a state of matter called quark gluon plasma. Quark gluon plasma was prevalent in the early universe milliseconds after the Big Bang. The quark gluon plasma can be recreated in the laboratory in collisions of very large nuclei in the highest energy collider facilities in the world, such as the Large Hadron Collider in Europe and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in the US. The PI, working with his graduate students, will carry out research to improve the understanding of the formation and development of quark gluon plasma in nuclear collisions.This project will develop a comprehensive computational simulation of nuclear collisions. The initial phase of those collisions at high energy is dominated by strong, nonlinear gluon fields. Because nuclei collide in random configurations and with random impact parameters an event-by-event Monte Carlo simulation of gluon fields will be provided. The system eventually reaches approximate local kinetic equilibrium and the further time evolution can be followed up by relativistic dissipative fluid dynamics. Comparison to data from LHC and RHIC can determine the equation of state and important transport coefficients of quark gluon plasma. The project will also shed light on the coupling of quark gluon plasma to electromagnetic probes (photons). In addition, the PI and his students will study the effect of the initial strong gluon fields on very fast quarks and gluons (jets), and on heavy quarks. Both of those are important probes for properties of quark gluon plasma. The project will also provide tools for the next generation collider experiments planned at an electron ion collider. The latter will allow for a systematic study of strong gluon fields and the creation of quark and gluon jets in a nuclear environment.