CERN's Large Hadron Collider has been used to recreate the universe's primordial soup – a combination of fundamental particles that existed in a fraction of time after the Big Bang. Record-high amounts of energy were used to investigate the universe's early elements, namely quarks and gluons.
The researchers found that the combination of quarks and gluons – known as quark-gluon plasma – acted more like liquid than a gas, despite its unbelievably high energy. They mapped the changes in quark-gluon plasma as they interact, before publishing their results in the journal Physical Review Letters.
"It is remarkable that we are able to carry out such detailed measurements on a drop of 'early universe'," said Jens Jørgen Gaardhøje, researcher from the Niels Bohr Institute. "The results are fully consistent with the physical laws of hydrodynamics – i.e. the theory of flowing liquids – and it shows that the quark-gluon plasma behaves like a fluid. It is however a very special liquid, as it does not consist of molecules like water, but of the fundamental particles quarks and gluons."
The scientists used the 17mile-long CERN Large Hadron Collider to conduct their investigation. They fired lead nuclei at each other at record-high energy levels of 5.02 teraelectronvolts – roughly the same amount of energy a human would need to walk 2,281,681miles.
The nuclei would crash into each other, quickly making quark-gluon plasma. This allowed the scientists to measure its characteristics for the first time.
They found that the collisions would happen slightly off of centre, and that meant the quark-gluon plasma would form in odd shapes – similar to if two footballs were kicked at each other, and made a rugby ball.
Reseacher You Zhou said: "The analyses of the collisions make it possible, for the first time, to measure the precise characteristics of a quark-gluon plasma at the highest energy ever and to determine how it flows."
The next stage of research for the physicists is to continue mapping the quark-gluon plasma but on a much more precise scale. The scientists write in the report that these findings will subsequently unlock the door to the mystery of the primordial soup, and will help with past research that has been missing these vital characteristics.