WASHINGTON, (Xinhua) — American nuclear physicists found that inside every proton in every atom in the universe is an extremely high pressure cooker environment that surpasses the atom-crushing heart of a neutron star.
The first measurement of a mechanical property of subatomic particles, reported in a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, revealed that the proton’s building blocks, the quarks, are subjected to a pressure of 100 decillion Pascal near the center of a proton, about 10 times greater than the pressure in the heart of a neutron star.
The 100 decillion is 35 powers of ten while the standard atmospheric pressure is 5 powers of ten pascal.
“We found an extremely high outward-directed pressure from the center of the proton, and a much lower and more extended inward-directed pressure near the proton’s periphery,” said Volker Burkert, a scientist at the United States Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and a co-author on the paper.
Burkert says that the distribution of pressure inside the proton is dictated by the strong force, the force that binds three quarks together to make a proton.
“Our results also shed light on the distribution of the strong force inside the proton,” he said. “We are providing a way of visualizing the magnitude and distribution of the strong force inside the proton. This opens up an entirely new direction in nuclear and particle physics that can be explored in the future.”
The researchers is expected to reveal other mechanical properties of the ubiquitous proton, such as the internal shear forces and the proton’s mechanical radius.