Scientists Say The Internal Pressure Of A Proton Is 10 Times Greater Than A Neutron Star

Researchers have measured the pressure inside of a proton for the first ever. The subatomic particle has 10 times the internal pressure of a neutron star. 
( Dimitris Christou | Pixabay )

Scientists have been studying protons for many years to determine how they function, and now the international pressure of a proton has finally been calculated.

What Was Discovered About Protons?

For the first time ever, researchers have calculated the pressure inside of a proton, a subatomic particle in the nucleus of every atom. They determined that the pressure at the center of a proton is about million trillion trillion times the strength of Earth’s atmospheric pressure.

This calculation is roughly 10 times the pressure of the inside of a neutron star, which is a dense, dead star that can last for billions of years.

The findings were published on May 16 in the journal Nature.

“It’s really the highest pressure we have ever seen,” said physicist Volker Burkert, a co-author of the study.

An intense, record-breaking pressure pushes outward from the center of the proton. There is also an opposing inward pressure coming from the periphery of the proton.

“Neutron stars are some of the densest objects we know of in the universe,” Burkert told Gizmodo. “It’s an order of magnitude bigger than that. It could be the record observation of a pressure on Earth.”

How Did Scientists Discover The Pressure Of A Proton?

For years, scientists have attempted to calculate the pressure from inside of the proton, but they were unable to do it. This group of researchers followed a different method. First, they used data from the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility Large Acceptance Spectrometer, which is a particle detector.

The researchers fired electrons at hydrogens, which contain a lot of protons. They then recorded the interactions of the quarks inside of the proton.

During the research, they did not examine the gluons because there was not enough energy coming from the electrons in the experiment. They estimated the pressure of the gluons in the final analysis.

Future Implications Regarding Protons

Researchers hope that their findings will help other scientists gain new insights about the way that protons work.

“Our results also shed light on the distribution of the strong force inside the proton,” Burkert 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.”

In the future experiments, the researchers will use the same strategies to determine aspects like the proton’s mechancial radius.

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