R&D on Liquid Argon detectors for neutrino physics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

The historical discovery of the Higgs boson, a long-sought particle, has made waves around the world, but another particle, the neutrino, has also attracted a lot of attention recently. This elusive particle of the Standard Model of Particle Physics (this same model that predicted the existence of the Higgs) has already surprised physicists in the past. The seminal discovery that neutrinos have mass (although tiny) has seriously challenged the Standard Model, which predicted massless neutrinos. In the last years, amazing findings have once more brought neutrinos to the forefront of Science.

Although neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the Universe, they are probably the least understood because they interact very weakly with matter. For this reason, very large detectors are required to answer the remaining questions neutrino physics can address, like explaining why matter won over the anti-matter in the Universe (one of the greatest puzzle of Science).

Liquid Argon (LAr) detectors are a promising new technology to study neutrinos. These state-of-the-art detectors are extremely efficient at detecting neutrinos and allow 3D images of the particle interactions, which provide unprecedented ways to reject undesirable interactions.

The UK has recently undertaken a scientific programme to develop and better understand this technology. This proposal offers a unique opportunity to fulfil the goals of the new strategy by increasing significantly the UK involvement in the MicroBooNE experiment, the only LAr neutrino experiment that will be running in the next years.

The group formed from this proposal, while making significant scientific impact with the MicroBooNE results, will also build small LAr detectors that will be used for R&D. With these new cutting-edge test stands, the Oxford group will be able to perform much needed measurements of the optical properties of LAr, which are essential for both neutrino physics and dark matter communities (some dark matter detectors use LAr detectors). In addition, R&D effort will be dedicated to a new way of instrumenting the LAr detector to detect even more efficiently the particle interactions. The latter could prove to be an innovative way of imaging particle interactions, which could be directly applied to medical imaging, hence of great interest for the medical industries. In the same way several particle physics projects in the past produced great advances in medicine, this research will lay the path to an avant-garde imaging technology that could be use for medical purposes.

The results that will come out of this project will establish the UK at the forefront of the LAr development effort. They will also provide very cost-efficient ways to considerably improve the performance of the LAr detectors for neutrino studies and for the search of the mysterious dark matter. This research will have direct impact on many current and future experiments and could culminate in unravelling some of the greatest mysteries of Science.

Planned Impact

Outreach to general public and young students:

This research proposal will provide a great opportunity for particle physics outreach. Neutrinos have attracted a lot of attention in the media recently and the public is now aware of the existence of these mysterious particles. The next generation of neutrino experiments will consists of very large-scale detectors and it is crucial to inform the public of the great relevance of these new experiments. Because this research proposes a new technology for neutrino experiments, it offers a unique way to promote neutrino physics and will pique the curiosity of the public.

Since scientists are now designing the next generation of neutrino detectors, publicizing this science to young people is a perfect way to attract the future scientists in the field of neutrino physics. Liquid Argon detectors will definitely draw attention from young students and we will ensure that neutrino physics is part of the Oxford outreach program.

Medical imaging application:

The current generation of medical imaging techniques requires very high statistics to get an image of sufficient quality for medical diagnostic. Some of the imagers, such as Positron Emission Tomography scanners, require that the patient stays perfectly still for long periods of time, and any movements degrades the image quality greatly. An imager that would offer very good signal-to-noise ratio would allow higher statistics and therefore shorter exposures. This has many advantages such as preserving a good quality of images and increasing the patient comfort.

This research proposes to develop a new technique to instrument Liquid Argon (LAr) detectors. The signal in the detector would be amplified via Gas Electron Multiplier and the amplification signal light (or potentially charge) will be readout by an array of small photon detectors (or potentially charge readout).

While significantly impacting the next generation of neutrino detectors, this particular technique has great potential for medical imaging application. Particle interactions in LAr detectors can be precisely imaged in 3D. They offer high signal-to-noise ratio and with adequate signal amplification, these detectors could also detect low energy particles, which would make them very attractive as medical imagers.

In the past, particle physics projects have often turned into great technological applications and have push considerably medical science. This proposal could be one more example of the success of particle physics research in our every day life.

Publications

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Acciarri R (2017) Noise Characterization and Filtering in the MicroBooNE Liquid Argon TPC in Journal of Instrumentation

 
Description Under this grant we have produced several significant results. On the MicroBooNE experiment, the first large-scale liquid argon Time Projection Chamber in the US dedicated to neutrino physics, we have performed the first measurement of reconstruction efficiency for cosmic muons. Since MicroBooNE is located near the surface, cosmic-ray background needs to be very well understood, and our finding, published in a peer-reviews journal, were the steppingstone for many analyses to come. We have also undertook two flagship analyses for the MicroBooNE experiment. The first one is related to the search for a low-energy excess, previously observed by another experiment. We have demonstrated the potential of this analysis by performing an end-to-end study of a small amount of data. We are now finalizing the analysis. Both of these results will be presented at the Neutrino 2018 Conference in June 2018. We have also played a leading role in the approval, development and design of the SBN programme, an experiment that will be composed of three liquid argon neutrino detector and will offer unprecedented sensitivity to sterile neutrino search. Under this grant we have optimized the design to mitigate cosmic-ray background and we have made a significant impact on the reconstruction and analysis software (the PI was appointed as the co-convener for the Physics and Analysis Tool group). Finally, regarding the DUNE (previously known as LBNE), under this grant we have also made significant contributions. The PI was appointed as the Deputy Convener for the Installation and Integration of the Far Detector Group and has lead the group to develop the detector installation and integration.
Exploitation Route Several reconstruction tools we have developed for this work are already used but several collaborators. The cross-section measurement is also the ground work to many other subsequent analyses and collaborators are already using our results. Regarding the low-energy search, this work was the demonstration of the analysis. The next step will be to perform the search on the full data set, and our work will be the stepping stone for this final analysis. Our results using the cosmic-ray studies have already been used by many collaborators to perform different detector calibration. The SBN programme, now under construction, will make huge impact on neutrino interaction and on search for sterile neutrinos. Data taking from the full programme should start in 2019.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Other

 
Description The smartphone application developed during this grant has now been widely used by many scientist around the World to promote Science to the general public, government representatives and high school students. This innovative visualisation tool (also using Virtual Reality) is the perfect tool to efficiently communicate with non-academic people. Many events doing promotion for Science used this app. For example, the Stargazing at Oxford event (http://venu.physics.ox.ac.uk/stargazing.html), Fermilab general public and open house events, Chicago Science Festival, Switzerland Natch der Forschung). In addition, it has been used a many events dedicated to high school students (Columbia University, Fermilab). This has definitely made an impact on the perception of neutrino physics by non-academic public and the app continues to be used worldwide..
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Other
Impact Types Societal

 
Description DUNE Collaboration 
Organisation Fermilab - Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This is an international science collaboration. We are working on the design of a near detector for a future of neutrino oscillation experiment as well as on the design of a data acquisition system for a 40 kton liquid Argon detector to detect and clarify neutrino interactions.
Collaborator Contribution There are around 150 other collaborating institutions, which work on all aspects of this planned experiment. More details can be found on the collaboration web page.
Impact Design reports, and conference contributions.
Start Year 2015
 
Description DUNE Collaboration 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This is an international science collaboration. We are working on the design of a near detector for a future of neutrino oscillation experiment as well as on the design of a data acquisition system for a 40 kton liquid Argon detector to detect and clarify neutrino interactions.
Collaborator Contribution There are around 150 other collaborating institutions, which work on all aspects of this planned experiment. More details can be found on the collaboration web page.
Impact Design reports, and conference contributions.
Start Year 2015
 
Description LBNF 
Organisation Fermilab - Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution planning a future long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment
Collaborator Contribution providing the project office and major components of the program planning
Impact many conference proceedings and a technical design report
Start Year 2010
 
Description Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The Conference for Undergraduate Women In Physics is organising the 2nd edition at Oxford. The conference will enable attendees to meet, network with, and be inspired by successful women in physics with whom they can share experiences, advice and ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/confs/cuwip2016/
 
Description Interview on Venu with newspaper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview regarding the press release of the launch of the VeNU smartphone application
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/venu-oxford-university-launches-vr-game-app-teach-people-about-neutrino-par...
 
Description Launch of the VENu (Virtual Environment for Neutrinos) smartphone application at Stargazing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We participated in the Stargazing event at Oxford, targeted to the general public and schools. We used this event to launch a smartphone application developed by the graduate student in my group. We had a kiosk where we distributed free google cardboard 3D goggles tu use the application as a 3D viewer of neutrino interactions. We also distributed flyers to people on how to download the free application. We registered 600 download following the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://venu.physics.ox.ac.uk/stargazing.html
 
Description Organisation of the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact We are organising the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Oxford where 100 undergraduate women students will participate in a 3-day conference meeting successful physics and other women with physics degrees that have done successful career outside of academia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/confs/cuwip2017/
 
Description Podcast about the VENu application 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We participated in a podcast initiated by Institue of Physics to discuss the new smartphone application enable the user to visualise in 3D neutrino interactions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description STEM Society Lecture at Oxford High School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I gave a talk to a classroom of around 15 students, who will be studying physics/mathematics at an A Level standard
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Stargazing at Oxford 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event "Stargazing at Oxford" allows different groups in the Physics Department to engage with the general public, to present their work that relates to understanding the Universe. More than 1000 people come to the department to learn about Oxford research. Posters, live demonstrations and activities are organised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/events/2016/01/16/stargazing-oxford-2016
 
Description TV interview "That's Oxfordshire" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact TV interview regarding the press release of the VeNU smartphone application
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mcDG54CYZY 
 
Description TV interview (BBC 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact BBC News interview took place at Fermilab National Laboratory on Monday Feb. 10th and was presented on BBC news on Feb. 14th at 6PM.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26017957

My interview was presented on BBC news (6pm News). The news promoted the neutrino physics research done in the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Venu News paper interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview to the Oxford News paper to discuss the launch of the VeNU smartphone application.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2017-01-30-find-elusive-particles-your-phone-oxford's-new-neutrino-viewer-a...
 
Description Venu Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We took part in a Podcast interview for Physics World discussing the VeNU smartphone application.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/multimedia/2017/mar/07/tracking-neutrinos-in-virtual-reality