quantum chromodynamics (QCD)

Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is a quantum field theory that describes the properties of the strong interactions between quarks and between protons and neutrons in the framework of quantum theory and the special theory of relativity.

Quarks have a distinctive property called color which governs their binding together to form other elementary particles. Analogous to electric charge in charged particles, color comes in three varieties, arbitrarily known as red, blue, and yellow, and – analogous to positive and negative charges – three anticolor varieties. Just as positively and negatively charged particles form electrically neutral atoms, colored quarks form particles with no net color. Quarks interact by emitting and absorbing massless particles called gluons, each of which carries a color-anticolor pair. Eight kinds of gluons are required to transmit the strong force between quarks, e.g., a blue quark might interact with a yellow quark by exchanging a blue-antiyellow gluon.


The concept of color was proposed by the American physicist Oscar Greenberg and independently by the Japanese physicist Yoichiro Nambu in 1964. The theory was confirmed in 1979 when quarks were shown to emit gluons during studies of high-energy particle collisions at the German national laboratory in Hamburg. QCD is nearly identical in mathematical structure to quantum electrodynamics (QED) and to the unified theory of weak and electromagnetic interactions advanced by American physicist Steven Weinberg and Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam (see electroweak force).