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Accueil > Recherche > Matière hadronique et nucléaire > Experimental Heavy-Ion Physics

Experimental Heavy-Ion Physics

Experimental Heavy-Ion Physics



Our group is involved in the experimental Heavy-Ion Physics since the very beginning of this field, dating back to the 1980’s. In the last 20 years the group has been involved in the fixed-target heavy-ion program at the CERN SPS, participating to the NA38, NA50 and NA60 experiments. Today, the group has a leading role in ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) at the LHC. ALICE is the only LHC experiment expressively dedicated to the heavy-ion physics, exploiting the unique physics potential of nucleus-nucleus interactions at the highest energies currently available in laboratory.


Ultra-relativistic heavy-ion collisions are the most effective tool for studying hadronic matter under extreme conditions of temperature and energy density. A new state of matter is created in these collisions, named the Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP), composed of strongly-interacting asymptotically-free quarks and gluons which under ordinary conditions are confined inside hadrons. The Universe itself is thought to have been in a QGP phase in the first fractions of second after the Big Bang.

The experimental effort in the field of the heavy-ion physics is currently active at two frontiers. At the "low-energy" frontier, at large baryon chemical potential, the main goal is a detailed characterization of the QCD phase diagram : the relevant questions concern the nature of the phase transition between ordinary hadronic matter and QGP, and the existence of a critical point. At the "high-energy" frontier, at vanishing baryon chemical potential, the main goal is a full characterization of the QGP phase : this implies an investigation of the bulk properties of the medium - now partially understood in terms of hydrodynamical models - as well as the study of the QCD properties driving the interactions between quarks and gluons in a dense color-charged medium.

ALICE at the LHC is the state-of-the-art experiment at the high-energy frontier of the heavy-ion physics. The ALICE group at the IPNL is involved in various aspects of the ALICE project, since 1996. The group designed, constructed and is currently responsible of the VZERO detector, playing a crucial role in the experiment. The design and the construction of the MFT detector, a vertex tracker to be added to the ALICE detector after 2019, represent today the major commitment of the ALICE group at the IPNL. In parallel to this, the group is also intensively involved in the data analysis thanks to the broad range of competences of its members : the main research interests go from the study of the bulk properties of nucleus-nucleus and proton-nucleus collisions, to the physics of low-mass dimuons, and more recently the physics of heavy-flavors in the dimuon channel.

More details on our group, our activities and publication, and the open positions for L3/M1/M2 stages and PhD thesis, are available in the sub-sections.