Collision Energy Dependence of Viscous Hydrodynamic Flow in Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collisions

Research paper by Chun Shen, Ulrich Heinz

Indexed on: 29 Feb '12Published on: 29 Feb '12Published in: Nuclear Theory


Using a (2+1)-d viscous hydrodynamical model, we study the dependence of flow observables on the collision energy ranging from sqrt(s)=7.7 A GeV at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) to sqrt(s)=2760 A GeV at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). With a realistic equation of state, Glauber model initial conditions and a small specific shear viscosity eta/s = 0.08, the differential charged hadron elliptic flow v_2^{ch}(p_T,sqrt(s)) is found to exhibit a very broad maximum as a function of sqrt(s) around top RHIC energy, rendering it almost independent of collision energy for 39 < sqrt(s) < 2760 A GeV. Compared to ideal fluid dynamical simulations, this "saturation" of elliptic flow is shifted to higher collision energies by shear viscous effects. For color-glass motivated MC-KLN initial conditions, which require a larger shear viscosity eta/s = 0.2 to reproduce the measured elliptic flow, a similar "saturation" is not observed up to LHC energies, except for very low p_T. We emphasize that this "saturation" of the elliptic flow is not associated with the QCD phase transition, but arises from the interplay between radial and elliptic flow which shifts with sqrt(s) depending on the fluid's viscosity and leads to a subtle cancellation between increasing contributions from light and decreasing contributions from heavy particles to v_2 in the sqrt(s) range where v_2^{ch}(p_T,sqrt(s)) at fixed p_T is maximal. By generalizing the definition of spatial eccentricity epsilon_x to isothermal hyper-surfaces, we calculate epsilon_x on the kinetic freeze-out surface at different collision energies. Up to top RHIC energy, sqrt(s)=200 A GeV, the fireball is still out-of-plane deformed at freeze out, while at LHC energy the final spatial eccentricity is predicted to approach zero.