Big Chill: Dark energy to 'drive universe expansion' says Hawking
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Almost 14 billion years ago, in less than a second, the Universe changed from an infinitesimal point to a region of space expanding billions of miles across. This rapid expansion, known as the Big Bang, created the particles and atoms which allowed for things like stars, galaxies, and even us, to come to be. While experts have some insight into what happened, a lot about how it happened is still very much unknown.
However, new research from the University of Copenhagen has given insight into a specific type of plasma – which is the first matter to have been created – during the first microsecond after the Big Bang.
You Zhou, Associate Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, said: “We have studied a substance called Quark-Gluon Plasma that was the only matter, which existed during the first microsecond of Big Bang.
“Our results tell us a unique story of how the plasma evolved in the early stage of the Universe.
“First the plasma that consisted of quarks and gluons was separated by the hot expansion of the Universe.
“Then the pieces of quark reformed into so-called hadrons.
“A hadron with three quarks makes a proton, which is part of atomic cores.
“These cores are the building blocks that constitute Earth, ourselves and the universe that surrounds us.”
The Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP) was present in the first 0.000001 second of Big Bang but it quickly disappeared due to the rapid expansion.
However, the team used the LHC to recreate the first matter in all of history and then look at what happened to it.
Prof Zhou said: “The collider smashes together ions from the plasma with great velocity—almost like the speed of light.
“This makes us able to see how the QGP evolved from being its own matter to the cores in atoms and the building blocks of life.”
The researchers also created an algorithm to help them analyse the collective expansion of more particles in the first trillionth of a second in the Universe.
The results suggested that QGP was a fluent liquid form which constantly changed shape over time, according to the study published in the journal Physics Letters B.
Prof Zhou continued: “For a long time researchers thought that the plasma was a form of gas, but our analysis confirm the latest milestone measurement, where the Hadron Collider showed that QGP was fluent and had a smooth soft texture like water.
“The new details we provide is that the plasma has changed its shape over time, which is quite surprising and different from any other matter we know and what we would have expected.”
While the study results are just one small detail in the grand scheme of things, the team says it brings them one step closer to understand how the Universe and everything in it came to be.
Prof Zhou: “Every discovery is a brick that improves our chances of finding out the truth about Big Bang.
“It has taken us about 20 years to find out that the Quark-Gluon Plasma was fluent before it changed into hadrons and the building blocks of life.
“Therefore our new knowledge on the ever-changing behaviour of the plasma, is a major breakthrough for us.”
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