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The international collaboration ALICE (“A Large Ion Collider Experiment”), of which the eponymous research group of the IP2I in Lyon is a member, aims to study nuclear matter in a state of extremely high temperature, where the deconfinement of hadrons (including protons and neutrons) into plasma of quarks and gluons takes place.

Matter is made up of atoms, themselves made up of electrons surrounding a nucleus of protons and neutrons, the latter being formed of quarks, linked by gluons. No quark or gluon has ever been observed in isolation: they appear to be permanently bonded together and confined in composite particles. At temperatures 100,000 times higher than those at the centre of the Sun, they deconform to form a plasma, which would have existed a few microseconds after the Big Bang. This plasma is predicted by the fundamental theory of strong interaction, Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), and its study allows us to understand the ultimate organization of matter subject to strong interaction and the very first moments of the universe.

The LHC collides lead ions to recreate conditions similar to those immediately after the Big Bang and form this quark and gluon plasma. For this infinitely small study, a huge detector has been built at the LHC. It is capable of measuring the particles emitted by the plasma as it expands and cools.

Our group has been involved in this construction and in obtaining major results in this field of physics.