Johann Rafelski, Homepage, Professor of Physics, University of Arizona Personal research profile in lay language (Photo)

Department of Physics
The University of Arizona
1118 E. Fourth Street
PO Box 210081
Tucson, AZ 85721

Communication: SKYPE: jrafelski and ++1 520 777 9519
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Research profile

Quantum theory implies that the laws of physics, including how energy is converted into matter and antimatter, are determined by the structure and properties of the vacuum (i.e., space empty of matter). Understanding the nature of the quantum vacuum and how matter and energy convert into each other would help satisfy our curiosity about how matter formed in the early universe. Moreover, being able to control such matter-energy conversion would reshape the future of humanity in a way the world has not seen since electricity, magnetism, and light were first understood 150 years ago.

Dr. Johann Rafelski works across subatomic physics disciplines to further our understanding of the quantum vacuum. His expertise relates to the characterization of the behavior of elementary particles and matter at the most extreme conditions of temperature, density, and force. Such extreme conditions are required to cause a drastic modification in the quantum vacuum, enabling its experimental exploration.

For example, smashing atomic nuclei with each other in a particle accelerator can generate temperatures 300 million times hotter than the surface of the sun. At such temperatures, the quantum vacuum properties that hold quarks and gluons together to form protons and neutrons break down (a process known as "quark deconfinement"), resulting in a quark-gluon plasma. Dr. Rafelski studies the behavior of deconfined "strange" quarks in this new phase of matter, seeking to explore how energy is converted into matter and antimatter.

Focusing on behavior of individual particles, Dr. Rafelski works to improve our understanding of the vacuum radiation friction force experienced by charged particles subject to extremely strong force fields. He studies how force field energy is converted into matter and antimatter and explores novel particle and radiation formation phenomena. This work helps clarify the mechanisms of quark-gluon plasma formation and of laser pulse generated radiation flashes.

In the past decade, Dr. Rafelski's curiosity has also led him to explore further related, but distinct, topics:
Dr. Rafelski's most recent book, "Relativity Matters" (Spring 2017), introduces undergraduates to special relativity and instructs them on that subject through their graduate careers while also explaining the current research topics introduced above.

Created August 20/21, 2017