In theoretical physics, quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is a theory of the strong interaction (color force), a fundamental force describing the interactions between quarks and gluons which make up hadrons (such as the proton, neutron or pion). It is the study of the SU(3) Yang–Mills theory of color-charged fermions (the quarks). QCD is a quantum field theory of a special kind called a non-abelian gauge theory, consisting of a 'color field' mediated by a set of exchange particles (the gluons). The theory is an important part of the Standard Model of particle physics. A huge body of experimental evidence for QCD has been gathered over the years.
QCD enjoys two peculiar properties:
- Confinement, which means that the force between quarks does not diminish as they are separated. Because of this, it would take an infinite amount of energy to separate two quarks; they are forever bound into hadrons such as the proton and the neutron. Although analytically unproven, confinement is widely believed to be true because it explains the consistent failure of free quark searches, and it is easy to demonstrate in lattice QCD.
- Asymptotic freedom, which means that in very high-energy reactions, quarks and gluons interact very weakly. This prediction of QCD was first discovered in the early 1970s by David Politzer and by Frank Wilczek and David Gross. For this work they were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics.
There is no known phase-transition line separating these two properties; confinement is dominant in low-energy scales but, as energy increases, asymptotic freedom becomes dominant.
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