Quark Search Experiment

The University of Texas at Austin

The objective of this research project is to determine whether or not it is feasible to place very small metal spheres in a microgravity environment and test for fractional charging (i.e., free quarks). While this experiment is theoretically feasible, the practicalities of controlling and measuring the velocities of small spheres in a reduced gravity environment are challenging. The primary goal of the project team(s) will be to design and develop a sphere ejector mechanism, which will be adapted to a modified Millikan ("oil drop") apparatus. The mechanism will eject metal spheres, 150-250 microns in diameter, with special emphasis given to maximizing electrical grounding and precision control of the sphere trajectories. The spheres will be contained within the Millikan apparatus. Results from this Reduced Gravity Flight (RGF) testing will determine the feasibility of an apparatus that would ultimately fly on-board a spacecraft, to test larger amounts of matter. Success in the overall series of experiments would set new upper limits on the quantity of stable matter analyzed for existence of free quarks, improving the confidence level in modern particle physics theory.

Previous conceptual design studies over the past two years, by teams of University of Texas at Austin undergraduate students and Georgetown High School (GHS) students, have identified issues and parameters associated with the development of a space-based quark search apparatus. These studies have been performed under the overall guidance of Paul Hudspeth and Jim Wilson, and with funding provided by the Texas Space Grant Consortium. The proposed research will build on the results of these previous studies. The Quark Search/Reduced Gravity Flight Team is led by a multi-disciplinary group of freshmen students at The University of Texas at Austin, who were high school students on the previous conceptual design studies. The team includes a new group of GHS students.

Visit our web site at:


Last Modified: Thu Jun 12 1997