Beauty quark production versus particle multiplicity

24 April 2023
ALICE figure 1

Measurements of the production of hadrons containing heavy quarks (i.e. charm or beauty) in proton–proton (pp) collisions provide an important test of the accuracy of perturbative quantum chromodynamics (pQCD) calculations. The production of heavy quarks occurs in initial hard scatterings of quarks and gluons, whereas the production of light quarks in the underlying event is dominated by soft processes. Thus, measuring heavy-quark hadron production as a function of the charged-particle multiplicity provides insights into the interplay between soft and hard mechanisms of particle production.

Measurements in high-multiplicity pp collisions have shown features that resemble those associated with the formation of quark–gluon plasma in heavy-ion collisions, such as the enhancement of the production of particles with strangeness content and the modification of the baryon-to-meson production ratio as a function of transverse momentum (pT). These effects can be explained by two different types of models: statistical hadronisation models, which evaluate the population of hadron states according to statistical weights governed by the masses of the hadrons and a universal temperature, or models that include hadronisation via coalescence (or recombination) of quarks and gluons which are close in phase space. Both predict an enhancement of the baryon-to-meson and strange-to-non-strange hadron ratios as a function of charged-particle multiplicity.

In the charm sector, the ALICE collaboration has recently observed a multiplicity dependence of the pT-differential Λc+/D0 ratio, smoothly evolving from pp to lead–lead collisions, while no dependence was observed for the Ds+-meson production yield compared to the one of the D0 meson. Measurements of these phenomena in the beauty sector are needed to shed further light on the hadronisation mechanism.

To investigate beauty-quark production as a function of multiplicity and to put it in relation with that of charm quarks, ALICE measured for the first time the fraction of D0 and D+ originating from beauty-hadron decays (denoted as non-prompt) as a function of transverse momentum and charged-particle multiplicity in pp collisions at 13 TeV, using the Run 2 dataset. The measurement exploits different decay-vertex topologies of prompt and non-prompt D mesons with machine-learning classification techniques. The fractions of non-prompt D mesons were observed to somewhat increase with pT from about 5 to 10%, as expected by pQCD calculations (figure 1). Similar fractions were measured in different charged-particle multiplicity intervals, suggesting either no or only mild multiplicity dependence. This suggests a similar production mechanism of charm and beauty quarks as a function of multiplicity.

The possible influence of the hadronisation mechanism was investigated by comparing the measured D-meson non-prompt fractions with predictions based on Monte Carlo generators such as PYTHIA 8. A good agreement was observed with different PYTHIA tunes, with and without the inclusion of the colour-reconnection mechanism beyond the leading colour approximation (CR-BLC), which was introduced to describe the production of charm baryons in pp collisions. Only the CR-BLC “Mode 3” tune that predicts an increase (decrease) of hadronisation in baryons for beauty (charm) quarks at high multiplicity is disfavoured by the current data.

The measurements of non-prompt D0 and D+ mesons represent an important test of production and hadronisation models in the charm and beauty sectors, and pave the way for future measurements of exclusive reconstructed beauty hadrons in pp collisions as a function of charged-particle multiplicity.

Further reading

ALICE Collab. 2023 arXiv:2302.07783.

ALICE Collab. 2021 arXiv:2111.11948.

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