Particle Physics Experimental Consolidated Grant - Equipment (2015-2019)

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 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. We also study the properties of the newly discovered Higgs boson. 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.

The LHCb experiment is designed to study the properties of particles that are built from the heavy 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 origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe. We are also active on preparing future upgrades to both the ATLAS and LHCb experiments, which will allow their discovery reach to be significantly extended.

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, ELBNF, will use a novel technology based on liquid argon to detect neutrinos that have been sent through the Earth, in a beam pointing from Fermilab in Chicago to a mine in South Dakota. The goal of this experiment is to learn whether neutrinos violate the fundamental symmetry between matter and antimatter. The experiment could also detect large numbers of neutrinos from a supernova explosion. A similar kind of experiment (LAr1-ND/MicroBooNE) uses neutrinos close to the source at Fermilab to develop the novel liquid argon technology and to search for 'sterile' neutrinos that do not interact via any of the fundamental interactions of the Standard Model except gravity.

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 and diamond detectors. These novel technologies have many potential applications beyond Particle Physics research, in areas such as medical physics and security applications. Particle Physics experimentation requires the reconstruction and analysis of large, complex data sets. We operate a large computing facility which supports data analysis for several of these large projects.

Finally, through our outreach programme, we communicate the results of our research to the public through television and radio programmes, books and lectures.

Planned Impact

We develop 3D diamond detectors, which represent the next generation of ultra-radiation-hard particle detectors for applications in the field of particle physics, medical applications and related fields, where reliable detectors for high-radiation fields are required. In the medical field this technology can greatly improve the accuracy of dosimetry determination in oncology and help to reduce the risks associated with radiation therapy. The biocompatibility and tissue equivalence of diamond, together with the fast response time, make 3D diamond an excellent candidate for real-time in vivo dosimetry.

The impact of the Manchester research on 3D silicon detector has been to transfer this technology from a university facility (Stanford) to an industrial/national facility based organisation (SINTEF), and to initiate and lead an unusual collaborative, rather than competitive, effort amongst European and US Facilities. This shift in industrial practice led to the successful industrialization of 3D technology in 2012. The beneficiaries are the processing facilities, which are now able to produce this sensor technology with high yield and known performance. This technology has many applications in optical, X-ray, and neutron imaging.

Our work on the GEANT4 toolkit for the simulation of the passage of particles through matter has led to many areas of application including high energy, nuclear and accelerator physics, as well as medicine and space science.

Ensuring security and combating terrorism are important global priorities where particle physics technological innovations can directly contribute. A key concern is the transportation across national borders of radioactive substances. The Group was asked by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) to construct a prototype, and perform a feasibility study, for drift chambers based on the successful design of the muon chambers used for the OPAL experiment at CERN.

The Manchester Group plays a leading role in particle physics public outreach. Brian Cox is the best known particle physicist in the UK. Cox has appeared in many science programmes for BBC radio and television, most recently presenting the BBC2 television series "Human Universe" and "Wonders of Life", with peak viewing figures of many millions.

We give 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 co-sponsored financially, and actively supported, an exhibit on the Higgs boson and the LHC at the Royal Society Exhibition in 2013 and 2014. The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester was the first stop in a tour of the Science Museum's Collider exhibition, which ``transports" visitors into the heart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Members of the Group were closely involved in all aspects of the exhibition, from the preparation of exhibits to being guides for the exhibit.

We are also engaged in a technology development for outreach purposes, designing and constructing spark chambers. One of the spark chambers was displayed on the BBC as part of the Stargazing Live programme.

In the recent REF exercise, the School of Physics and Astronomy was ranked first in the UK for impact, which included contributions from Particle Physics. We will continue to make an important contribution to the School's successful impact agenda in the future.


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