Baryonic popcorn

Vadim Kaplunovsky*, Dmitry Melnikov, Jacob Sonnenschein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the large Nc limit cold dense nuclear matter must be in a lattice phase. This applies also to holographic models of hadron physics. In a class of such models, like the generalized Sakai-Sugimoto model, baryons take the form of instantons of the effective flavor gauge theory that resides on probe flavor branes. In this paper we study the phase structure of baryonic crystals by analyzing discrete periodic configurations of such instantons. We find that instanton configurations exhibit a series of "popcorn" transitions upon increasing the density. Through these transitions normal (3D) lattices expand into the transverse dimension, eventually becoming a higher dimensional (4D) multi-layer lattice at large densities. We consider 3D lattices of zero size instantons as well as 1D periodic chains of finite size instantons, which serve as toy models of the full holographic systems. In particular, for the finite-size case we determine solutions of the corresponding ADHM equations for both a straight chain and for a 2D zigzag configuration where instantons pop up into the holographic dimension. At low density the system takes the form of an "abelian anti- ferromagnetic" straight periodic chain. Above a critical density there is a second order phase transition into a zigzag structure. An even higher density yields a rich phase space characterized by the formation of multi-layer zigzag structures. The finite size of the lattices in the transverse dimension is a signal of an emerging Fermi sea of quarks. We thus propose that the popcorn transitions indicate the onset of the "quarkyonic" phase of the cold dense nuclear matter.

Original languageEnglish
Article number47
JournalJournal of High Energy Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2012


FundersFunder number
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences0969020


    • AdS-CFT Correspondence
    • Phase Diagram of QCD
    • Solitons Monopoles and Instantons


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