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In this paper, the concepts of microscopic transport theory are introduced and the features and shortcomings of the most commonly used ansatzes are discussed. In particular, the Ultrarelativistic Quantum Molecular Dynamics (UrQMD) transport model is described in great detail. Based on the same principles as QMD and RQMD, it incorporates a vastly extended collision term with full baryon-antibaryon symmetry, 55 baryon and 32 meson species. Isospin is explicitly treated for all hadrons. The range of applicability stretches from E lab < 100$ MeV/nucleon up to E lab> 200$ GeV/nucleon, allowing for a consistent calculation of excitation functions from the intermediate energy domain up to ultrarelativistic energies. The main physics topics under discussion are stopping, particle production and collective flow.

Ratios of hadronic abundances are analyzed for pp and nucleus-nucleus collisions at sqrt(s)=20 GeV using the microscopic transport model UrQMD. Secondary interactions significantly change the primordial hadronic cocktail of the system. A comparison to data shows a strong dependence on rapidity. Without assuming thermal and chemical equilibrium, predicted hadron yields and ratios agree with many of the data, the few observed discrepancies are discussed.

We analyze the reaction dynamics of central Pb+Pb collisions at 160 GeV/nucleon. First we estimate the energy density pile-up at mid-rapidity and calculate its excitation function: The energy density is decomposed into hadronic and partonic contributions. A detailed analysis of the collision dynamics in the framework of a microscopic transport model shows the importance of partonic degrees of freedom and rescattering of leading (di)quarks in the early phase of the reaction for E >= 30 GeV/nucleon. The energy density reaches up to 4 GeV/fm 3, 95% of which are contained in partonic degrees of freedom. It is shown that cells of hadronic matter, after the early reaction phase, can be viewed as nearly chemically equilibrated. This matter never exceeds energy densities of 0.4 GeV/fm 3, i.e. a density above which the notion of separated hadrons loses its meaning. The final reaction stage is analyzed in terms of hadron ratios, freeze-out distributions and a source analysis for final state pions.

Equilibrium properties of infinite relativistic hadron matter are investigated using the Ultrarelativistic Quantum Molecular Dynamics (UrQMD) model. The simulations are performed in a box with periodic boundary conditions. Equilibration times depend critically on energy and baryon densities. Energy spectra of various hadronic species are shown to be isotropic and consistent with a single temperature in equilibrium. The variation of energy density versus temperature shows a Hagedorn-like behavior with a limiting temperature of 130 +/- 10 MeV. Comparison of abundances of different particle species to ideal hadron gas model predictions show good agreement only if detailed balance is implemented for all channels. At low energy densities, high mass resonances are not relevant; however, their importance raises with increasing energy density. The relevance of these different conceptual frameworks for any interpretation of experimental data is questioned.

Microscopic calculations of central collisions between heavy nuclei are used to study fragment production and the creation of collective flow. It is shown that the final phase space distributions are compatible with the expectations from a thermally equilibrated source, which in addition exhibits a collective transverse expansion. However, the microscopic analyses of the transient states in the reaction stages of highest density and during the expansion show that the system does not reach global equilibrium. Even if a considerable amount of equilibration is assumed, the connection of the measurable final state to the macroscopic parameters, e.g. the temperature, of the transient "equilibrium" state remains ambiguous.

The ultrarelativistic quantum molecular dynamics model (UrQMD) is used to study global observables in central reactions of Au+Au at sqrt[s]=200A GeV at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). Strong stopping governed by massive particle production is predicted if secondary interactions are taken into account. The underlying string dynamics and the early hadronic decoupling implies only small transverse expansion rates. However, rescattering with mesons is found to act as a source of pressure leading to additional flow of baryons and kaons, while cooling down pions.

Enhanced antiproton production in Pb(160 AGeV)+Pb reactions: evidence for quark gluon matter?
(2000)

The centrality dependence of the antiproton per participant ratio is studied in Pb(160 AGeV)+Pb reactions. Antiproton production in collisions of heavy nuclei at the CERN/SPS seems considerably enhanced as compared to conventional hadronic physics, given by the antiproton production rates in pp and antiproton annihilation in p p reactions. This enhancement is consistent with the observation of strong in-medium effects in other hadronic observables and may be an indication of partial restoration of chiral symmetry.