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Grant advances quark-gluon plasma studies

Date:10/7/2010

surrounded by a powerful magnet that captures images of particles, which look like contrails from a high-flying jet. The particles zoom off in every direction from the collision of heavy nuclei, usually gold. Those collisions happen inside the accelerator that runs through STAR's center.

In recent years, the team that includes William Llope, a senior faculty fellow in physics and astronomy, and Geary Eppley, a Rice research scientist, has worked to extend STAR's particle identification abilities by cladding it with a layer of 23,000 sensors collectively known as the time-of-flight (TOF) detector. It will tell researchers how long the most robust particles take to fly through the TPC. "It acts as a fancy -- and highly accurate -- stopwatch," Geurts said. "The TPC gives us all the details of the momentum and path traveled by the emerging particles, and the new detector provides us with the time it took them to travel that far. We can then calculate what the mass of that particle is."

The new detector is accurate to a 10th of a billionth of a second, he said. "People are very excited about this because we will be able to identify about 96 percent of the particles that come out of collisions." In fact, the new sensors will allow the characterization of subatomic particles out to higher momenta. "This allows us to peek deeper into the hot and dense matter," said Geurts, who has also worked extensively at the Large Hadron Collider, an even bigger new accelerator in Europe that has started to smash heavy nuclei at even higher energies.

With completion of the 10-year time-of-flight project this fall, Geurts said the Bonner Lab is shifting its priorities from constructing the subdetector for STAR to analyzing the data it produces and reaping the exciting results. While STAR has been upgraded, so will other components at RHIC, including the addition of a new firing mechanism that will give the collider the ability to handle uranium nuclei and perhaps other heav
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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