LBNE and the Fermilab Liquid Argon TPC Programme

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Physics


The recent discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC was a major technical and scientific triumph, but it is not the end of the story. There are still many unanswered questions in particle physics. Of these, perhaps the most intriguing is the question of why there is more matter in the Universe than antimatter. If this wasn't the case essentially all the particles would have annihilated with their antiparticle partners and the Universe would be a very different place; there would be no large-scale structure and we wouldn't be here to answer this question.
There must be some explanation for this matter-antimatter asymmetry, and what ever the answer, it implies that "CP is violated", i.e. matter behaves slightly differently from antimatter. CP violation has been observed in the decays of strongly interacting particles, but this is not sufficient to explain the matter-dominated Universe. However, there are indications that neutrinos might provide the answer through a process called lepto-genesis. CP violation in the neutrino sector could represent the next major discovery in particle physics.

Neutrinos are neutral "ghost" particles that hardly interact with matter. When the travel over large distances they change their nature, a process called neutrino flavour oscillations, whereby one type of neutrino oscillates into a different type. CP violation for neutrinos would imply that these oscillation rates are slightly different for neutrinos and antineutrinos. Observing this difference is the next big challenge to experimental particle physics.

The LBNE experiment is the flagship of the future US particle physics programme. It is designed to discover CP violation for neutrinos. A powerful beam of neutrinos will be fired 1300 km from Fermilab, near Chicago, towards a huge underground detector in South Dakota. This underground detector will contain 50,000 tons of liquid argon at a temperature of 87 K (-186 degree Celsius). The liquid argon technology enables neutrinos to be detected with "photograph-quality" detail, marking a breakthrough in neutrino experiments.

In this proposal, UK physicists are requesting £2.5M over three years to take leading roles in the LBNE experiment and to develop the liquid argon detector technology. This research and development phase will allow the UK to be the leading non-US partner in this incredibly exciting experiment.

Planned Impact

Five main areas of potential impact have been identified.

1) Societal impact through participation in this major experiment. The idea of firing neutrinos 1300 km through the Earth's surface and detecting them in a vast detector has the potential to capture the imagination of the public and STEM students considering studying physic/mathematics. Through an active programme of public engagement, we will capitalise on this opportunity.

2) Industrial engagement through a major UK role in the construction of the LBNE FD. Our proposed programme of work is stepping stone to a potentially major UK construction project consisting of several hundred 7 m x 2.5 m APAs for the LBNE FD. A project of this scale is suitable for industrial production and through the expertise gained here the UK would be well-placed for this production.

3) The development of a target for the 1.2 MW proton beam is pushing the limits of the technology. High-power targets have potential impacts in fields beyond particle physics. The UK is a leader in this area, and this leadership potion will be strengthened through continued leading involvement in the next generation of high-power target.

4) The development of liquid noble gas detectors is an important area in particle physics. The work in this proposal will place the UK in a stronger position to utilise this technology - possible applications beyond particle physics will be developed.

5) The development of sophisticated and flexible pattern recognition software for processing two-dimensional images from a LAr TPC and converting them into 3D reconstructed par tile tracks and showers may have applications in medical imaging applications - these areas will be investigated.


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Description Developed a detailed project plan for a world-class UK contribution to the construction of the LBNF/DUNE project in the US.
Exploitation Route The UK involvement in LBNF/DUNE opens up a number of potential technical benefits and in particular in the development of SRF technology.
Sectors Other

Description Contributed to UK leadership of the DUNE collaboration and ultimately to the approval by BEIS to invest in the LBNF/DUNE programme based on the business case presented. The business case highlight strategic and economic benefits.
Sector Electronics,Other
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Scientific and technical collaboration with the US
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description Support for teaching buyout as DUNE Co-Spokesperson
Amount $200,000 (USD)
Organisation Fermilab - Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2017
Description DUNE Collaboration 
Organisation Fermilab - Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am the leader of the DUNE collaboration, which comprises almost 1000 scientists.
Collaborator Contribution Planning for the next major construction project in particle physics
Impact none
Start Year 2015
Description MicroBooNE Collaboration 
Organisation Fermilab - Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Department MicroBooNE Experiment
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Software using the PandoraPFA framework is now being used by the MicroBooNE experiment to reconstruct neutrino interactions in data.
Collaborator Contribution Addressed a long-standing challenge with the interpretation of data from LAr-TPC detectors. The output of this research was used for the first results presented by the MicroBooNE collaboration at the Neutrino 2016 conference.
Impact Cross-disiplinary connecting research in collider physics to research in neutrino physics.
Start Year 2015
Description School visits (UK and US) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Visits to schools in UK and US to give a public talk on Neutrinos and DUNE
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016