As-Yet Unseen Type of Matter May Have Been Found
Occasionally destruction is the best instruction, which is why massive colliders like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are built. Along its circumference particles will accelerate to nearly the speed of light until the time the researchers want them to collide because the data from the collision can provide insight into the workings of the particles and physics in general. Now, as discovered by researchers at MIT, this insight points to a new type of matter, that has only been theorized before; a color-glass condensate.
Condensates are a type of matter only where every particle within them exists at its lowest energy level, which brings out quantum effects, and these particles can also behave as though they were one massive particle. In the case of a superfluid, this means the particles will flow over each other without any friction, unlike any common liquid. A color-glass condensate is comprised of gluons, the quanta that hold together the quarks that make up protons and neutrons. When conducting lead-proton collisions within the LHC, particles were shot out in an unusual pattern that such a condensate could follow. In January more collisions will be done to determine if indeed the condensate was formed.
Potentially this discovery could improve our understanding of protons by allowing researchers to determine the actual placement of gluons and quarks within the sub-nucleonic particles. Ironically these collisions were being done to create a baseline for future lead-lead collisions, but this behavior prevents the researchers from making such a baseline yet.