24.04.2017 Enhanced production of multi-strange hadrons in high-multiplicity proton–proton collisions
At sufficiently high temperature and energy density, nuclear matter undergoes a transition to a phase in which quarks and gluons are not confined: the quark–gluon plasma (QGP)1. Such an exotic state of strongly interacting quantum chromodynamics matter is produced in the laboratory in heavy nuclei high-energy collisions, where an enhanced production of strange hadrons is observed2,3,4,5,6. Strangeness enhancement, originally proposed as a signature of QGP formation in nuclear collisions7, is more pronounced for multi-strange baryons. Several effects typical of heavy-ion phenomenology have been observed in high-multiplicity proton–proton (pp) collisions8,9, but the enhanced production of multi-strange particles has not been reported so far. Here we present the first observation of strangeness enhancement in high-multiplicity proton–proton collisions. We find that the integrated yields of strange and multi-strange particles, relative to pions, increases significantly with the event charged-particle multiplicity. The measurements are in remarkable agreement with the p–Pb collision results10,11, indicating that the phenomenon is related to the final system created in the collision. In high-multiplicity events strangeness production reaches values similar to those observed in Pb–Pb collisions, where a QGP is formed.
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