Capital equipment in connection with the Sheffield Particle Physics Group Consolidated Grant 2016 to 2019

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


We live in an amazing time for discoveries in particle physics and particle astrophysics. The equipment proposal made here is designed to support the research we wish to conduct at Sheffield that is at the heart of this endeavour. It is closely associated with our STFC consolidated grant programme request for the period 2015-2019. Foremost amongst our work recently has been involvement in follow-on from the discovery by ATLAS of a Higgs boson particle. Members of the group led and helped to develop the key 4-lepton analysis upon which the discovery was based. This work will continue but, preparing for the future, the equipment we are seeking will be critical to expanding our generic role in the ATLAS upgrade programme to build key components of a new ATLAS tracker. In neutrino physics, bolstered by exciting new results in our understanding of how neutrinos oscillate from one type to another, our capital request is key to allowing us to participate in next generation long baseline neutrino experiments for CP violation, aimed to unravel the mystery of antimatter in the Universe. The DUNE experiment, recently funded in the US to proceed with excavation underground for the first 80 kton liquid argon module, is vital to this as complement to the Hyper-K experiment in Japan. For these our particular focus will be on detector construction and the requested equipment will be critical to underpinning this. For instance, building on our leading work on the precursor SBND experiment at Fermilab, we will now construct the central Anode Plane Array frames for the protoDUNE experiment at CERN. The latter requires, in particular, the new state of the art workshop machine requested. In parallel we need to expand our pioneering liquid argon R&D. The laser system and data acquisition apparatus requested will allow us to produce leading results in this area, specifically on space charge and electron trapping physics that has dogged recent experiments. For particle astrophysics we plan to develop new efforts on detection of dark matter, thought to comprise 90% of the Universe. There is strong motivation here because the US LUX experiment recently produced a new step-change in sensitivity to dark matter particles. Supporting our computing hardware for the LUX-ZEPLIN experiment, the next generation device in which we are involved, will allow us to grow leadership in simulations. Our pioneering work on detectors with sensitivity to galactic signatures can also be supported this way. This includes the new CYGNUS-TPC project now backed by 20 institutes to build a global dark matter telescope. Meanwhile, our generic detector R&D and knowledge exchange programme is vital to underpinning the group's expertise and skills-base. The requested equipment can benefit our historic links to the Boulby deep underground science laboratory and our muon tomography projects for climate change, spin-out work on novel motor control electronics and our novel welding technology ideas. Our long-standing efforts to develop liquid argon technology for neutrino physics are also relevant to medical imaging requirements. The data acquisition and laser instrumentation requested can greatly aid this area as well.

Planned Impact

The capital items requested this round are all of great benefit to our impact agenda, in concordance with the group's current Consolidated Grant and selected in part with this in mind. The work on advanced welding concepts spun out from ATLAS is a key part for us. It has already greatly aided the UK company VBCie through development of InterPulse welding techniques, enabling contracts for VBCie with Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney. This stimulated selection of VBCie InterPulse welding methods for ATLAS and CMS upgrade engineering. Our request for capital items related to this, for instance the IP50 welding power supply, supports hardware prototype assembly, which is aimed to strengthen this research and increase impact. Also from the ATLAS programme there is potential to develop new silicon technology and characterisation techniques. The bonder and test facilities requested in this capital bid are targeted in part for this. The neutrino programme at Sheffield is also producing significant impact. The T2K activity originally helped stimulate our projects in muon tomography for carbon capture and storage using DECC and oil company funding. More recently the spin-out has expanded through work for SBND, DUNE and ProtoDUNE. This has allowed us to establish strong industrial links with new precision engineering companies, notably Portobello Engineering Ltd., keen to develop new fabrication techniques. We are also continuing to apply our work in liquid argon physics to medical instrumentation, developing in particular new imaging GPMTs. Target applications include positron emission tomography (PET). Here superior energy and position resolution promises higher image fidelity and reduced patient radiation doses. The new work on LAPPD sensors, for which a capital item is requested, also feeds into this agenda by providing a potential new technique for cryogenic photon readout. The area of neutrino physics has also produced new collaborations with the Atomic Weapons Establishment in homeland security and nuclear non-proliferation. Here two new joint programmes are already funded, one in muon tomography and the other in development of thick Gas Electron Multiplier (GEM) technology for radiation assay. The requested 3D printer is vital to these areas. This supplements our existing projects on neutron activation analysis for detection of explosives in cargo. This work led previously to the acquisition and commissioning of a new pulsed thermal neutron source facility, impacting UK industry, notably The Welding Institute. Meanwhile, we have also developed a high pressure CO2 based cooling system as an alternative to CFC based existing technology. This is being applied in aerospace applications. Much of the workshop machine request is relevant to this activity. Relevant here also, coming out of the ATLAS upgrade work, is new activity in robotics. This is motivated by realisation that a robotics systems can reduce personnel risk in many industrial processes such as decommissioning activities. Impact here can come from the accelerator engineering and the nuclear industry, in situations for instance where virtual realities are required with hardware controlled remotely. The Shadow Robot Company Ltd. is involved here, concerning research into highly dexterous robot manipulators for high radiation environments. Our work in the area of dark matter is also producing impact supported by this capital bid. For instance Durridge, Inc., who have now spun out a Sheffield University-Based UK subsidiary, is working with us to develop RadTrack, a new radon assay instrument. The RadTrack detector will utilize technology developed in collaboration with Sheffield for measuring radon and other background levels in the STFC Boulby Underground Laboratory. The requested CNC machine and computing equipment is important to support this, as well as other parts of our impact programme.


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