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Growing drops of strange matter


Strange matter comprises roughly equal numbers of up (u), down (d) and strange (s) quarks, in contrast to nuclear matter, for which s quarks are absent. The theoretical possibility1–7 that S-drops (small 'bags' of strange matter) may not only be metastable, but might become absolutely stable if grown to sufficient size, would have consequences of the greatest importance. In particular, this form of matter could provide the basis for a compact energy source. Here we describe a hypothetical experiment to explore this possibility. The first step is the production and detection of S-drops in relativistic heavy-ion collisions. Previously, we have estimated8 the efficiency of production of S-drops by the process of fragmentation of quarks into hadrons following formation of hot quark–gluon matter. The proposed experiment would initially produce and detect S-drops of charge Z = −1 in present CERN and BNL facilities. The next step would be to grow small, positively charged S-drops to large stable S-drops through neutron capture in a confining apparatus. These two steps could provide the scientific basis for subsequent engineering studies of S-drops as an energy source.

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Shaw, G., Shin, M., Dalitz, R. et al. Growing drops of strange matter. Nature 337, 436–439 (1989).

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