Researchers from the University of Copenhagen investigated what happened to a specific kind of plasma — the first matter ever present — during the first microsecond of the Big Bang. Their findings form a puzzle piece for the evolution of the universe as we know it today.
About 14 billion years ago, our universe changed from a lot hotter and denser to a radical expansion – a process that scientists have dubbed ‘The Big Bang’.
And while we know that this rapid expansion created particles, atoms, stars, galaxies and life as we know it, the details of how it all happened are still unknown.
Now, a new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, reveals insights into how it all started. “We studied a substance called Quark-Gluon Plasma, which was the only matter that existed during the first microsecond of the Big Bang.
Our results tell us a unique story of how plasma evolved in the early stage of the universe, ”explains You Zhou, associate professor at Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.
“First, the plasma consisting of quarks and gluons was separated by the hot expansion of the universe. Then the pieces of quark transformed into so-called hadrons.
A hadron with three quarks makes a proton, which is part of atomic nuclei.These cores are the building blocks of the earth, ourselves and the universe that surrounds us, ”he adds.
From fluid and smooth to the strong building blocks of life
The Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP) was present in the first 0.000001 second of the Big Bang and then disappeared through the expansion.
But by using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, researchers were able to recreate this first case in history and see what happened to it.
“The accelerator crushes ions from the plasma at great speed – almost like the speed of light. This allows us to see how the QGP evolved from its own matter to the nuclei in atoms and the building blocks of life, ”says You Zhou.
In addition to using the Large Hadron Collider, the researchers also developed an algorithm that can analyze the collective expansion of more particles produced at once than ever before.
Their results show that the QGP used to be a fluid liquid form and differentiates itself from other things by constantly changing its shape over time.
“Researchers for a long time thought the plasma was a form of gas, but our analysis confirms the latest milestone measurement, where the Hadron Collider showed that QGP was fluid and had a smooth, soft texture like water.
The new details we’re giving is that the plasma has changed shape over time, which is quite surprising and different from everything else we know and what we expected,” You Zhou says.
One step closer to the truth about Big Bang
While this may seem like a minor detail, it brings us one step closer to solving the puzzle of the Big Bang and how the universe evolved in the first microsecond, he explains.
“Every discovery is a stone that increases our chances of uncovering the truth about the Big Bang. It took us about 20 years to figure out that the Quark-Gluon Plasma was fluid before turning into hadrons and the building blocks of life.
That’s why our new knowledge about the ever-changing behavior of plasma is a big breakthrough for us, ”concluded You Zhou. Reference: