Wayne State postdoctoral fellow develops state-of-the-art simulations to explain data from the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider

Energy density (yellow is high; purple is low) at different times during the hydrodynamic evolution of matter created in a collision of a lead ion (moving to the left) with a photon emitted from another lead ion (moving to the right).

Spotlight research led by Dr. Wenbin Zhao, a postdoc fellow in the nuclear theory group at Wayne State, developed state-of-the-art simulations for particles of light (photons) colliding with heavy ions to create a fluid of "strongly interacting" particles.

This analysis sought to explain data from the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, indicating that photon-heavy ion collisions can create a strongly interacting fluid that responds to the initial collision geometry, exhibiting hydrodynamic behavior. This work further suggested that these collisions can form a quark-gluon plasma, a system of quarks and gluons liberated from the protons and neutrons that make up the ions. These findings will help guide future experiments at the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a facility planned to be built at Brookhaven National Laboratory over the next decade.

This work was published in Physics Review Letters [Phys. Rev. Lett. 129, 252302 (2023)].


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  • Particles of Light May Create Fluid Flow, Data-Theory Comparison Suggests (Brookhaven Lab news release)
  • ATLAS physics briefing about the experimental result
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