2012 Consolidated Grant Supplement

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


The Particle Physics Group at the University of Manchester studies fundamental particles and their interactions with experiments based at major international research centres. This research is performed in international collaborations and covers all aspects of experimental particle physics: the development of novel detector concepts, the design, construction and operation of large experiments and the analysis of the data.

The Manchester Particle Physics Group plays a leading role on two of the main experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which produces proton-proton collisions at the highest energies currently accessible in accelerators. On the ATLAS and LHCb experiments, we test the Standard Model of Particle Physics with unprecedented precision and search for new physics beyond the Standard Model. These studies include measurements of the properties of the strong and electroweak interactions and the search for new particles, such as Higgs bosons or heavy neutrinos. Another focus of our research at ATLAS is the study of the properties of the heaviest of all known quarks, the top quark, where the Manchester Particle Physics Group has many years of experience from working on the D0 experiment at the Tevatron accelerator in Chicago. The LHCb experiment is designed to study the properties of particles that are built from the heavier bottom and charm quarks. Detailed studies of their production and decays provide a window to new physics and allow us to study fundamental questions such as the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe. We are also active on preparing future improvements to both the ATLAS and LHCb experiments.

Understanding the properties of the elusive neutrino is another priority of our research programme. With the NEMO-3 and SuperNEMO detectors, located in the Modane Underground Laboratory, we search for neutrinoless double beta decay, a process that has never been observed before. Its observation would indicate that neutrinos are their own antiparticles and it will provide a measurement of the neutrino mass. A different kind of experiment, MINOS, studies the oscillation between different types of neutrinos by detecting them over a long distance between Fermilab in Chicago and a mine in Minnesota. Involvement in future new neutrino experiments (PINGU/LBNE) and the COMET/PRISM project, that will look for similar transformations between muons and electrons, are also proposed.

Modern Particle Physics experiments contain sophisticated technology to detect particles. The Manchester Group leads an extensive reasearch programme on developing novel detection devices, such as 3-dimensional silicon detectors or diamond detectors. These novel technologies have many potential applications beyond Particle Physics research in areas such as medical physics or security applications. Finally, through our outreach programme, we communicate the results of our research to the public through television and radio programmes,

Planned Impact

The Manchester group plays a leading role in particle physics public outreach. Brian Cox is the best known particle physicist in the UK, and a number of commentators have attributed the rise in science and Maths A-level entries in part to the "Brian Cox Effect".

The group gives well attended master-classes and one day A-level courses, and many group members give public talks and media interviews. School students and the general public are the beneficiaries of this work.

The group has participated in this year's Royal Society Science Exhibition featuring the Higgs boson. Sir Peter Higgs will receive an honarary degree at the University of Manchester later this year.

The group is also actively involved in lobbying opinion formers, such as government members, and organising VIP visits, to benefit the promotion of scientific interests. His Royal Highness the Duke of York, chancellor George Osborne and science minister David Willetts have all visited the School of Physics and Astronomy in recent years.

The group is involved in a number of technological applications of particle physics detectors and accelerators with wider social and economic impact. These include the application of pixel detectors in medical and light source applications, and a contract with the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) for screening at ports for heavy radioactive materials.


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