First-of-Its-Kind Four Quark Particle Discovered at CERN

The particle is a fundamental building block of all matter.
Fabienne Lang

The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) project has uncovered a four charm quark particle for the first time ever, advancing physics in a significant way. 

The LHCb collaboration includes over 1,400 members from 19 different countries. It's very likely that this finding is the first of a previously undiscovered grouping of particles to ever be seen by scientists.

The study was presented at CERN and published at preprint server arXiv on Wednesday.

This is a jump forward since the two quark particle was discovered two years ago.


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This discovery helps physicists better understand quarks — which are elementary particles part of the fundamental building block of matter. Quarks form together to create hadrons — composite particles — which include protons and neutrons. Now scientists will have a better grasp of how quarks bind together to form these composites. 

It's more typical to see quarks combined in formations of twos or threes, and never before has a combination of four quarks been captured together. These are sometimes called tetraquarks. 

It's an exciting day for physicists, as "Particles made up of four quarks are already exotic, and the one we have just discovered is the first to be made up of four heavy quarks of the same type, specifically two charm quarks and two charm antiquarks," said the spokesperson of the LHCb collaboration, Giovanni Passaleva.

First-of-Its-Kind Four Quark Particle Discovered at CERN
Four components are shown in the graphs from CERN, Source: LHCb collaboration CERN

"Up until now, the LHCb and other experiments had only observed tetraquarks with two heavy quarks at most and none with more than two quarks of the same type."

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Another LHCb spokesperson, Chris Parkes, further explained that "Today's discovery opens another exciting chapter in this scientific book, allowing us to study our theory of matter particles in an extreme case."

"This particle is an extreme case—it is an exotic-hadron, containing four quarks rather than the two or three in conventional matter particles, and the first to contain heavy quarks."

There's still a fair amount of work left for scientists to do now that they have found a tetraquark, as Parkes said "Studying an extreme system allows scientists to stress-test our theories."

"Through the study of this particle, and the hope that we will discover further particles in this class in this future, we will test our theory of how quarks combine which also governs protons and neutrons."

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