Scientists just created tiny specs of ultra-hot early universe matter

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have been able to create what they call tiny droplets of the ultra-hot matter that once filled the early universe. The matter they created formed three distinct shapes and sizes including circles, ellipses, and triangles. The image below is a visualization of the expanding drops of quark gluon plasmas.

A quark gluon plasma is a liquid-like state of matter that physicists believe filled the entire universe for the first few microseconds after the Big Bang. During that time the universe is believed to have been too hot for particles to come together and make atoms. The experiment that created these particles in the lab is called PHENIX.

CU Boulder Professor Jamie Nagle worked with colleagues from Vanderbilt University using the collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory to smash packets of protons and neutrons together in different combinations to form larger atomic nuclei. The team found that when they carefully controlled the conditions of the experiment, they could generate droplets of quark gluon plasma that expanded into one of three geometric patterns.

The team's research provided the strongest evidence so far that these tiny drops behave like a fluid. Interestingly, scientists had previously thought that fluid-like behavior was impossible. The first experiments of this sort were in 2000 and smashed heavy nuclei of gold atoms together to generate temperatures of trillions of degrees Celsius. The experiment saw the quarks and gluons, which are subatomic particles that make up all protons and neutrons break free from their atomic chains and flow almost freely.

The PHENIX experiment found that collisions of deuterons formed short-lasting ellipses, Helium-3 atoms formed triangles, and a single proton ended in the shape of a circle. Scientists believe this research could help to create better theories of how the universe's original quark gluon plasma cooled over milliseconds to give birth to the first atoms in existence.