Open-charm production measurements with ALICE at the LHC
EPJ Web of Conferences
Open-charm production measurements with ALICE at the LHC
P. Pagano 0 1
on behalf of the ALICE Collaboration
0 I.N.F.N. - Gruppo Collegato di Salerno
1 Salerno University - Italy
The LHC heavy-ion physics program aims at investigating the properties of strongly-interacting matter under extreme conditions of temperature and energy density where the formation of the Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP) is expected. Heavy-flavour hadrons, containing charm and beauty quarks, are considered efficient probes to investigate the properties of the QGP produced in heavy-ion collisions. Heavy quarks are produced in hard partonic scattering processes in the initial stage of hadronic collisions and propagate through the hot and dense medium created in the collision losing energy interacting with the medium via radiative and collisional processes. The high precision tracking, good vertexing capabilities and excellent particle identification offered by the ALICE experiment allow us to measure particles containing heavy quarks in a wide transversemomentum range in pp, p-Pb and Pb-Pb collisions. A review of the main results on prompt D-mesons production, reconstructed via their hadronic decays at mid-rapidity, in pp collisions at √s = 7 TeV, p-Pb collisions at √sNN = 5.02 TeV and Pb-Pb collisions at √sNN = 2.76 TeV will be shown.
The ALICE experiment at the LHC aims to investigate the properties of the high energy-density
and strongly-interacting matter created in heavy-ion collisions at ultrarelativistic energies. Charm
and beauty quarks are an excellent probe to study it. Due to their large masses, they are produced
predominantly in hard parton scattering processes at the early stages of the collisions. Therefore,
they pass through all the phases of the system evolution losing energy in their interactions with other
medium constituents. The flavour is conserved in these interactions so heavy quarks can be considered
sensitive probes of the medium properties. Open heavy-flavour hadron production is expected to be
sensitive to the energy density of the system through the mechanism of in-medium energy loss of
heavy quarks [
]. Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) theoretical calculations predict a dependence
of the energy loss on the mass of the parton traversing the medium, according to the dead cone effect
, which suppresses the induced gluon radiation at small angles for heavy partons. Furthermore, the
energy loss through the medium depends on the parton colour charge and path length. This results
in an expected hierarchy of the parton energy loss, with beauty quarks losing less energy than charm
quarks, and charm quarks losing less energy than light quarks and gluons. One of the observables that
are sensitive to the interaction of hard partons with the medium is the nuclear modification factor, RAA,
defined as the ratio of the particle yield measured in Pb–Pb collisions and the yield in pp collisions
scaled by the number of binary collisions. RAA is expected to be equal to one for heavy flavours in
the absence of medium effects. The expected hierarchy of the energy loss described above can be
probed comparing the RAA of different particle species, respectively, B, D mesons and light-hadrons
. Further knowledge of the properties of the medium created in heavy-ion collisions can be gained
from the study of the azimuthal anisotropy of open heavy flavours: the initial spatial asymmetry is
transformed into an asymmetry in momentum via hydrodynamic expansion of the medium. This is
quantified in terms of the second harmonic coefficient v2 of the Fourier expansion of the D-meson
azimuthal distribution. The elliptic flow parameter v2 brings information on the medium transport
properties, in particular on the question whether heavy quarks take part in the collective expansion of
the medium and on the path-length dependence of energy loss.
The interpretation of particle production measurements in Pb-Pb collisions requires detailed
studies and understanding of their production in pp and p-Pb collisions. pp collisions provide the essential
reference for the nuclear modification factor and a sensitive test of perturbative QCD models. In
addition, with pp collisions it is possible to gain information on the role of Multiple-Parton
Interactions (MPI), i.e. several hard partonic interactions occurring in a single collision between two
nucleons. Measurements of open heavy-flavour in p–Pb collisions allow to disentangle cold nuclear
matter (CNM) effects (such as transverse momentum broadening, gluon saturation at low Bjorken-x
], modification of the nuclear parton distribution functions [
], energy loss ) from final-state
effects that occur in a deconfined medium.
2 ALICE detector layout and open heavy-flavour reconstruction
The ALICE detector  is well suited for heavy-flavour measurements at the LHC in a wide
momentum and rapidity range. The detectors in the central barrel used for this analysis are: the Inner
Tracking System (ITS), the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) and the Time-of-Flight detector (TOF).
The ITS comprises six layers of silicon pixel, strip and drift detectors and is used for the tracking of
charged particles and the reconstruction of the primary and secondary vertex. Track reconstruction in
the central barrel (| η |< 9) starts from the TPC, which also provides particle identification (PID) by
measuring the specific energy loss dE/dx of charged particles passing throught it. Further PID
information is given by the TOF via the time stamp of the charged particle hits on the detector with respect
to the time of the interaction. The cooperation of these high performing detectors allows the excellent
performance needed for heavy-flavour analyses. Moreover the V0 scintillator detectors at forward and
backward rapidities provide minimum bias trigger and are used to determine the centrality of Pb-Pb
Prompt D mesons are fully reconstructed through their hadronic decay channels: D0 → K−π+,
D+ → K−π+π+, D∗+ → D0π+, D+s → φπ+ → K+K−π+ and their charge conjugates. The
reconstruction is based on the selection of their decay secondary vertex, displaced by few hundred μm from the
primary vertex and topological selections, combined with particle identification criteria, applied to
reduce the high combinatorial background.
The signal yield is obtained by fitting the invariant mass distributions of the candidates, while the
contribution from beauty feed-down is estimated based on FONLL pQCD calculations and subtracted
in order to evaluate the results for prompt D meson yield .
The D-meson yield is measured as a function of the charged-particle multiplicity in pp and
pPb collisions. The D meson yields and the charged-particle multiplicity are both normalized to the
multiplicity-integrated values. In the case of p-Pb collisions, the nuclear modification factor RpPb is
defined as the D-meson cross section in p-Pb collisions divided by the measured cross section in pp
collisions scaled by the lead mass number.
The pT -differential cross section measurements of prompt D meson have been performed in pp
collisions at √s = 2.76 TeV [
] and √s = 7 TeV  and the results are well described by
perturbative QCD. Because of the limited statistics of the √s= 2.76 TeV sample, a √s extrapolation is applied
to define the pp reference needed for the RAA calculation.
The prompt D-meson elliptic-flow parameter v2 is also reported as a function of pT in
semiperipheral collisions (30-50% centrality class).
The pT -differential cross sections for D0, D+, D∗+ and D+s at √s = 7 TeV are shown in Fig. 1, together
with FONLL and GM-VFNS model calculations. Within uncertainties, theoretical predictions and
measurements are in agreement. Nevertheless, it can be noted that the measurements tend to be
higher than the central value of the FONLL prediction; for GM-VFNS, instead, the data lie on the
lower side of the predictions.
In the left panel of Fig. 2 the average of D0, D+ and D∗+ self-normalized yield as a function of
relative charged- particle multiplicity is shown for pp and p-Pb collisions in the transverse-momentum
range 2 < pT < 4 GeV/c. The result for pp collisions indicates that D-meson yields increase with the
charged-particle multiplicity by a factor of about 15 in the range between 0.5 and 6 times <dNch/dη >.
The increase of the heavy-flavour self-normalized yields with the charged-particle multiplicity is
qualitatively consistent with the theoretical calculations including the contribution from MPI to
heavyflavor production at LHC energies . A similar behaviour was observed also for p-Pb collisions.
However, in this case, high-multiplicity events also come from the higher number of binary
In the right panel of Fig. 2 shows the average RpPb and RAA of prompt D0, D+ and D∗+ mesons
as a function of pT [18, 19]. The RpPb of D mesons is consistent with unity for pT > 2 GeV/c, and is
described by calculations that include CNM effects [
The nuclear modification factor in Pb–Pb collisions, RAA, shows a significant suppression for pT
> 3 GeV/c in both the 0–10% and 30–50% centrality classes; in particular a larger suppression is
observed for the most central collisions, as expected. As the RpPb remains consistent with unity over
the entire measured pT range, it is concluded that the suppression in Pb–Pb collisions can be attributed
to final-state effects in the medium rather than CNM effects.
In the left panel of Fig. 3 the D-meson RAA, that it is the average of D0, D+ and D∗+, as a function
of the centrality of Pb-Pb collisions, expressed as the average number of nucleons that participate in
the collision Npart, is shown for 8 < pT < 16 GeV/c . The centrality dependence of D-meson RAA
was studied in the range between 0 and 80%. In the same figure the D-meson RAA is compared to the
non-prompt J/Ψ RAA coming from beauty-hadron decays measured by the CMS Collaboration .
The chosen pT ranges imply that both D and B mesons probed by these measurement have average
pT of about 10 GeV/c in a slightly different y range. A suppression that increases towards central
collisions was observed for both D mesons and non-prompt J/Ψ RAA. The measurements show a
Dmeson RAA lower than the non-prompt J/Ψ RAA in central collisions, suggesting a larger energy loss for
charm than for beauty quarks, as expected from theoretical calculations that predict a mass-dependent
energy loss. The predictions from a model , including mass-dependent energy loss for charm and
beauty quarks, are superimposed to the measurements: the D-meson and non-prompt J/Ψ RAA can be
well described by the this calculation.
Figure 3 (right) shows the comparison of the D-meson RAA with that of charged hadrons and pions
as a function of pT . The measurements show a similar suppression from mid to high pT but this is
still consistent with models including parton charge and mass dependence of energy loss.
The average v2 of the three D-meson species measured in 30-50 % central Pb-Pb collisions, shown
in the right panel of Fig. 4, is larger than zero with a 5.7 σ significance in the interval 2 < pT < 6 GeV/c.
This result indicate that at low pT charm quarks participate in the collective motion of the system.
A postive v2 is also observed for pT > 6 GeV/c but for a more qualitative study of the path-length
dependence of parton energy loss via v2 measurements more statistics is needed.
In both panels of Fig. 4  the ALICE measurements are compared to various theoretical
calculations including in-medium parton energy loss [
]. Most models describe qualitatively well
the prompt D-meson RAA as a function of pT , in particular the models including both collisional and
radiative energy loss. The low pT v2 result is best described by models that include the collective
expansion of the medium and a mechanism of hadronisation via recombination of charm quarks with
light quarks. Nevertheless, the simultaneous description of the large suppression of D mesons in
central collisions and their anisotropy in non-central collisions is challenging for theoretical models.
The ALICE experiment at the LHC has an excellent performance for heavy-flavor measurements,
thanks to tracking, vertexing and PID. Results on the D-meson production measurements from
ALICE were reported in pp, p-Pb and Pb-Pb collisions. The pT -differential cross sections for prompt D
mesons in pp collisions are described within uncertainties by theoretical predictions based on pQCD
calculations. The D-meson self-normalized yields exhibit an increasing trend with increasing
chargedparticle multiplicity in pp collisions, suggesting that MPIs affect the hard momentum scale relevant
for heavy-flavour production. A similar increase is observed in p–Pb collisions, but in this case a
higher number of binary nucleon-nucleon collisions also contributes to high-multiplicity events. The
RpPb of prompt D mesons in p-Pb collisions is consistent with unity within uncertainties, providing
no indication for large CNM effects at high pT . In the most centra Pb-Pb collisions, a strong
suppression of heavy-flavour yields is observed at intermediate and high pT with respect to binary-scaled
pp collisions. As the influence of CNM effects is small in the measured pT range, these results in
Pb–Pb collisions can be interpreted as a final-state effect due to in-medium parton energy loss,
consistent with the expected parton-mass dependence. The v2 measured in Pb–Pb semi-central collisions
is larger than zero at low pT , suggesting that heavy quarks participate in the collective motion of the
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