Rolling Grant, Nuclear Physics Group, Glasgow Univ.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The research programme of the Glasgow Nuclear Physics Group focuses on the study of the strong interaction. As one of the four fundamental forces in nature, the strong force is responsible for the formation and stability of atomic nuclei. At an even more fundamental level it also is the interaction that forms hadrons from quarks and gluons and is therefore responsible for most of the observable mass in the universe. Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) is widely accepted as the fundamental theory describing the strong interaction; a recent Nobel Prize (2004, Gross, Politzer, Wilczek) was awarded for developing this theory. QCD has some features that make it very different from the theories of the electromagnetic and weak interactions. Only very high energy particle physics processes can easily be calculated pertubatively, a feature known as asymptotic freedom At lower energies, effective field theories incorporating some of the fundamental symmetries of QCD, e.g. chiral symmetry, can be applied. In addition, models such as the quark model have been developed, which describes strongly interacting particles as either three-quark or quark-antiquark systems. In our research we use scattering experiments to investigate the structure of nuclei and nucleons as well as spectroscopic methods for nucleon resonances and hadrons. Both approaches complement each other. We carry our experiments out at leading accelerator facilities in Europe and the US: MAX-lab in Lund, Sweden; MAMI in Mainz, Germany; Jefferson Lab in Newport News, USA; DESY in Hamburg, Germany and FAIR in Darmstadt, Germany. In these experiments we use (often polarised) beams of electrons, photons and also (in the future) anti-protons. Our research is organised into four programmes or themes: - Short-range Nuclear Structure We want to understand how the constituents of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons (collectively known as nucleons), interact with each other to give rise to a wide range of phenomena. In particular we plan to investigate, what happens when nucleons pass very close to each other in collisions within a nucleus, the strength of interactions involving 3 nucleons and how the nuclear medium affects particles that are created within it. - Nucleon Structure Knowing that nucleons are themselves composite objects made up of more fundamental entities (quarks and gluons), we need to establish the distribution of matter within them. Form factors and parton distribution functions are used to describe the structure of nucleons. In recent years the theoretical framework of Generalised Parton Distributions (GPDs) has been developed that ties the description of nucleon structure systematically together. Once measured, GPDs will give us a 3-dimensional picture of the nucleon as well as a way to access the total angular momentum of quarks inside a nucleon. - Nucleon Resonance Spectroscopy As composite objects, nucleons can be excited to higher mass states. Whilst the quark model describes a great deal of the excitation spectrum, several predictions must be confirmed to clarify which variant of the quark model most accurately describes reality. Hunting for predicted states is a very difficult task, and will involve, amongst other techniques, the use of polarised high energy photons similar to the way in which optical polarisation can be employed to see greater detail. - New Forms of Hadronic Matter The observation of states beyond the quark model is of fundamental importance in answering the question of why quarks and gluons have never been observed in isolation, even though there is compelling evidence that they must exist. This feature, known as 'confinement', is unique to the strong interaction, and is not observed in any of the other fundamental forces of nature. We use methods of hadron spectroscopy to search for so-called glueballs and exotic hybrid mesons.


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