Physics profs and students contribute to Guinness World Record-setting project

Posted July 11, 2012

Faculty and students from the Department of Engineering and Physics have helped set a Guinness World Record: the Highest Man-Made Temperature in the World.

The record was set at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) facilities in Upton, N.Y. RHIC is an underground atomic "racetrack" facility that collides ions together to produce high man-made temperatures. The record temperature was an incredible four trillion degrees Celsius.

Four ACU students and two faculty members are currently working on the PHENIX experiment at RHIC. Physics students Aric Tate ('15), Ramsey Towell ('15) and Walker Nikolaus ('12) and computer science student Mat Solomon ('15) are working alongside Dr. Mike Daugherity, assistant professor of engineering and physics, and Dr. Rusty Towell, professor and chair of engineering and physics.

Dr. Daugherity notes that ACU students working on PHENIX have been praised for their maturity and knowledge.

"When we're at the lab, ACU undergraduates are mistaken for grad students all the time," says Daugherity. "It is because our students get more hands-on research experience than anyone else at places like RHIC.  There is a program for undergraduates at an annual international nuclear physics conference, and ACU sends more students than any other institution in the world. When ACU has more undergraduate nuclear physics research than MIT, people start to take notice."

Since 1999, more than 40 ACU students have worked on the PHENIX project. In addition to the hands-on work at the lab, at least one ACU student or faculty member has been included as a co-author in all 111 papers published about PHENIX.


RHIC is a 2.4-mile underground track that collides gold ions together at the speed of light. The original purpose of the RHIC was to provide fundamental insights about the building blocks of matter. A byproduct of the collision, however, is the formation of an exotic state of matter known as a quark-gluon plasma. The plasma produces a temperature 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun.

The PHENIX Collaboration is the largest of four experiments conducted at RHIC and where most of ACU's involvement has been. The main goal of PHENIX is to study the properties of quark-gluon plasma.

About 500 scientists from 70 different institutions have contributed to PHENIX, including ACU. The RHIC is located at Brookhaven National Laboratories in Upton, N.Y.

Learn more about RHIC.

Learn more about ACU's Department of Engineering and Physics.