Two University of Colorado-Boulder physicists who are part of a team working with the Brookhaven National Laboratory used the lab's giant atom smasher -- the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider -- to ram charged gold particles into each other billions of times. That, they said, created a "quark-gluon plasma" with a temperature 250,000 times higher than that of the sun's interior and 40 times higher than the interior of supernovae.
The experiment is designed to recreate the conditions of the universe a few microseconds after the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago.
CU-Boulder Professors Jamie Nagle and Edward Kinney said the research team used gold, one of the heaviest elements, for the experiment. The gold atoms were sent flying in opposite directions in the collider -- a 2.4-mile underground loop located in Upton, N.Y. The collisions melted protons and neutrons and liberated subatomic particles known as quarks and gluons.
Later this year physicists hope to use the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to ram ions together to create even higher temperatures to replicate even earlier conditions following the Big Bang.
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