JUN 29, 2018 12:14 PM PDT

Where to Find New Matters? Not Far Beyond The (Periodic) Table

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Strange quark matter produced in the ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (CERN)

According to a latest study published in Physical Review Letters, a team of physicists from University of Toronto made a bold prediction: a new form of stable element that consists of only Up (u) and Down (d) quarks might exist not far beyond the end of the periodic table.

All elements in the periodic table are made of atoms that contain protons, neutrons, and electrons, with the first two baryons making up almost the entire mass of each atom. Both protons and neutrons can be further broken down a smaller elementary particle known as quarks. For example, a proton has two up quarks, one down quark; a neutron has two down quarks and one up quark.

As atoms get heavier, scientists suspect that the nucleus would become too massive to remain stable. Therefore they speculate the existence of a new type of matter known as strange quark matter (SQM).

SQM is expected to only exist in extreme environments, such as neutron stars and heavy ion colliders. For example, on neutron stars the gravity there is so strong that all the protons and electrons from atoms would be mashed together and turned into neutrons. It was estimated that a teaspoon of neutron star matter could weigh up to 10 million metric tons.

What’s more, the underlying quarks that form the neutrons would also be compressed. The up and down quarks could be squeezed together to form strange quarks. Since it’s made up of “strange” quarks, physicists call this “strange matter”.

On the other hand, due to the observed stability of ordinary nuclei, quark matter that is made of only u and d quarks (udQM) is considered impossible. But the findings in the new study challenge this conventional hypothesis.

The continent of atomic stability (Holdom et al/American Physical Society)

The Canadian researchers claimed that the udQM, quark matter without strange quarks, is entirely possible. According to their calculation, udQM may have a stable atomic configuration in the so-called “continent of stability”, which is a theoretical mass/charge region with a mass over 300 and a charge/mass ratio around 3.

How would a potential udQM compare to other elements in the periodic table? For example, Ununoctium (118) the current heaviest element ever document, has an atomic mass of 294. Due to its innate instability and artificial nature, it has a half-life of only 0.001 second.

"Physicists have been searching for SQM for decades. From our results, many searches may have been looking in the wrong place. ... It is quite a basic question to answer: What is the lowest energy state of a sufficiently large number of quarks? We argue that the answer is not nuclear matter or strange SQM, but rather udQM, a state composed of nearly massless up and down quarks," said the Canadian researchers in an interview with Phys.org.

Strange Stars (PBS Space Time)

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
APR 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 12, 2020
Where we should turn our focus for ammonia emissions control
When you think of air pollution, you might not immediately think of ammonia. But in fact, when ammonia reacts with sulfu ...
APR 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 20, 2020
Here's How the ESA's CHEOPS Mission Works
Exoplanetary detections have exploded exponentially since the first discovery of one by Swedish astronomers in 1995. The ...
MAY 11, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 11, 2020
New development in soft robotics
Soft material robotics are often more resilient and adaptable than conventional robotics, but there is one shortcoming - ...
MAY 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 20, 2020
Do cats or dogs better survive venomous snakebites?
Who do you think could better battle off a venomous snakebite - a dog or a cat? New research from the University of Quee ...
MAY 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 29, 2020
Smart windows change color to reflect external humidity
New research published in the journal Advanced Optical Materials highlights an innovative technology that signals for wi ...
JUN 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JUN 02, 2020
How Can Far-Ultraviolet Light Help Us in a Pandemic?
Ultraviolet (UV) (10-400 nm) light is everywhere. It constitutes 10 percent of the total electromagnetic radiation in th ...
Loading Comments...