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Exploring the Physics of Exotic Hadrons

Scientists from Indiana University are part of a five-year, $11.24 million initiative from the US Department of Energy to resolve difficult and complicated problems central to progressing understanding of nuclear physics.

Adam Szczepaniak. Image Credit: IU Bloomington Department of Physics

The attempt brings together the top nuclear theorists of the world to progress theoretical frameworks for the precise prediction of properties of nuclear matter and nuclear interactions.

Being a part of this work, Indiana University (IU)’s Adam Szczepaniak is leading a project known as “ExoHad,” exploring the physics of exotic hadrons, a largely undiscovered group of subatomic particles controlled by rules that still need to be established. Of the Department of Energy’s award, $1.8 million aids ExoHad, including other IU scientists and collaborators from throughout the world.

We are excited to work on these very important issues, which may ultimately provide us with a better understanding of matter itself. We are expecting a lot of novel phenomena that we have not seen yet, even though we cannot predict exactly what those will be.

Adam Szczepaniak, Professor and Director, Joint Physics Analysis Center, Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University

While nuclear physics analyses particles at an unbelievably small scale, it could have a big effect. This helps in taking the understanding of the universe further. Having an elaborate knowledge of nuclear physics could result in progresses in several fields, such as medicine or climatology.

To comprehend exotic hadron physics better, Szczepaniak’s project brings collectively three teams: one developing theory, one conducting experiments and numerical simulations, and one that will integrate the outcomes of experiments with forecasts from the calculations.

The method followed by scientists underlines the need for common tools, depending on hadron scattering amplitudes. This can be done concurrently to examine numerical simulation and experimental data. They believe their approach will enable a highly strong determination of the spectrum of exotic hadron resonances.

The exotic hadrons that the collaboration is hoping to unravel are expected to contain many gluons, which are the most mysterious particles know in physics. They only exist deep inside atomic nuclei and are responsible for over 95 percent of visible matter in the universe, but how this happens is still a mystery.

Adam Szczepaniak, Professor and Director, Joint Physics Analysis Center, Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University

This project enables Szczepaniak and his collaborators to implement knowledge learned as members of the Joint Physics Analysis Center. The center started in 2013 to offer theory help to experiments happening at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia and later extended to laboratories all over the world.

In the decade since the center has produced over 100 research papers and mentored more than two dozen postdoctoral researchers and students. Having gained assistance from IU’s Global Classroom Initiative, the center has come up with specialized graduate courses that have made students and more senior researchers come in contact from across the globe.

IU student scientists are vital to this work, said Szczepaniak, who believes the project will motivate students to track this field and help create the next generation of nuclear physicists.

The other IU collaborators on the project include Jinfeng Liao, professor of physics, and Emilie Passemar, associate professor of physics.

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