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gluon,an elementary particle that mediates, or carries, the strong, or nuclear, force. In quantum chromodynamicsquantum chromodynamics
(QCD), quantum field theory that describes the properties of the strong interactions between quarks and between protons and neutrons in the framework of quantum theory.
..... Click the link for more information. (QCD), the quantum field theoryquantum field theory,
study of the quantum mechanical interaction of elementary particles and fields. Quantum field theory applied to the understanding of electromagnetism is called quantum electrodynamics (QED), and it has proved spectacularly successful in describing the
..... Click the link for more information. of strong interactionsstrong interactions,
actions between elementary particles mediated, or carried, by gluons. They are responsible for the binding of protons and neutrons in the nucleus and interactions between quarks.
..... Click the link for more information. , the interaction of quarks (to form protonsproton,
elementary particle having a single positive electrical charge and constituting the nucleus of the ordinary hydrogen atom. The positive charge of the nucleus of any atom is due to its protons.
..... Click the link for more information. , neutronsneutron,
uncharged elementary particle of slightly greater mass than the proton. It was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932. The stable isotopes of all elements except hydrogen and helium contain a number of neutrons equal to or greater than the number of protons.
..... Click the link for more information. , and other elementary particleselementary particles,
the most basic physical constituents of the universe. Basic Constituents of Matter
Molecules are built up from the atom, which is the basic unit of any chemical element. The atom in turn is made from the proton, neutron, and electron.
..... Click the link for more information. ) is described in terms of gluons—so called because they "glue" the quarks together. Gluons are massless, travel at the speed of light, and possess a property called color. Analogous to electric charge in charged particles, color is of three varieties, arbitrarily designated as red, blue, and yellow, and—analogous to positive and negative charges—three anticolor varieties. Quarks change their color as they emit and absorb gluons, and the exchange of gluons maintains proper quark color balance.
Unlike other forces, the force between quarks increases as the distance between the quarks increases. Up to distances about the diameter of a proton, quarks behave as if they were free of one another, a condition called asymptotic freedom. As the quarks move farther apart, the gluons that move between them utilize the energy that they draw from the quark's motion to create more gluons—the larger the number of gluons exchanged among quarks, the stronger the binding force. The gluons thus appear to lock the quarks inside the elementary particles, a condition called confinement. Gluons can also bind with one another to form composite particles called glueballs.
According to QCD, only colorless objects may exist in isolation. Therefore, individual gluons and individual quarks cannot exist in nature, and only indirect evidence of their existence can be detected. In 1979, compelling evidence was found when quarks were shown to emit gluons during studies of particle collisions at the German national high-energy physics laboratory in Hamburg.
See J. Diasdebens and S. Costa Ramos, ed., The Physics of Quark-Gluon Plasma (1988); F. J. Yndurain, The Theory of Quark and Gluon Interactions (1993).