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Challenges in QCD matter physics --The scientific programme of the Compressed Baryonic Matter experiment at FAIR


Substantial experimental and theoretical efforts worldwide are devoted to explore the phase diagram of strongly interacting matter. At LHC and top RHIC energies, QCD matter is studied at very high temperatures and nearly vanishing net-baryon densities. There is evidence that a Quark-Gluon-Plasma (QGP) was created at experiments at RHIC and LHC. The transition from the QGP back to the hadron gas is found to be a smooth cross over. For larger net-baryon densities and lower temperatures, it is expected that the QCD phase diagram exhibits a rich structure, such as a first-order phase transition between hadronic and partonic matter which terminates in a critical point, or exotic phases like quarkyonic matter. The discovery of these landmarks would be a breakthrough in our understanding of the strong interaction and is therefore in the focus of various high-energy heavy-ion research programs. The Compressed Baryonic Matter (CBM) experiment at FAIR will play a unique role in the exploration of the QCD phase diagram in the region of high net-baryon densities, because it is designed to run at unprecedented interaction rates. High-rate operation is the key prerequisite for high-precision measurements of multi-differential observables and of rare diagnostic probes which are sensitive to the dense phase of the nuclear fireball. The goal of the CBM experiment at SIS100 (sNN= 2.7--4.9 GeV) is to discover fundamental properties of QCD matter: the phase structure at large baryon-chemical potentials (μB> 500 MeV), effects of chiral symmetry, and the equation of state at high density as it is expected to occur in the core of neutron stars. In this article, we review the motivation for and the physics programme of CBM, including activities before the start of data taking in 2024, in the context of the worldwide efforts to explore high-density QCD matter.

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