Strategic Capital Investment in Advanced Silicon Detector Development

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


Particle physics seeks to understand the Universe, its birth, evolution and fate in terms of the interplay of elementary particles (the quarks and leptons) the fundamental forces (the strong, electromagnetic, and weak forces and gravity) and the force-particles that mediate them (photons, W/Z, gluons and gravitons) and the recently discovered Higgs particle that gives the elementary particles mass. The last thirty years have seen the development of a successful theoretical framework, the Standard Model, in which almost all particle-physics data can be explained. However, the model is incomplete. While it explains what we encounter on Earth, studies of the cosmos indicate the presence of mysterious dark matter that holds galaxies together and even more mysterious dark energy that is driving galaxies apart at an ever-increasing rate. There are so many mysteries! There has never been a better time to be a particle physicist. Oxford's research will advance significantly our understanding of whatever "new-physics" theory will emerge to replace the Standard Model, and will guide the theoretical work to develop it.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is now operating at 13 TeV; it reproduces the conditions within a million millionth of a second of the Big Bang. Oxford plays a major role in both ATLAS and LHCb. Over the next decade, the LHC will upgrade to higher energy and intensity, and so detector improvements are being prepared for both ATLAS and LHCb. The upgraded detectors will take particle physics to an unprecedented level of sensitivity for the nearly inevitable new-physics observations. Throughout our work we are enabling powerful computing resources and analysis tools that are necessary for the extraction of important discoveries from vast volumes of data.

We participate in high-precision experiments which are complementary to the large experiments at the LHC. LZ addresses one of the most important questions in particle physics and cosmology; a search for dark matter, a candidate being the lightest SUSY particle. LSST will measure how quickly the expansion of the universe is speeding up due to the mysterious dark energy that represents 75% of all the energy in the universe and acts like anti-gravity pushing galaxies apart.

Throughout, Oxford will continue to develop and enhance capabilities in mechanical and electronic design so that we retain the ability to construct the most sophisticated apparatus for our physics objectives. We will retain our world-leading role for scientific excellence and major state-of-the-art detector construction in particle physics for the future. These are exciting times for particle physics, and Oxford is playing a major role.

Planned Impact

Curiosity-driven research has been shown many times to be a key factor in producing high-impact applications that break the paradigm rather than contribute to incremental improvements. The equipment in this proposal contributes to the possibility that, by working at the cutting edge of new technologies, significant developments of benefit to a far wider community can be produced. Our current portfolio gives examples of such applications and we fully expect that others will develop during the period of this grant.

Our research into detectors and sensors has applications in many other fields. For example, we are developing a silicon photomultiplier system which could be used and adapted to many detection systems for nuclear reactor monitoring or portable radiation detectors. Optimisation of light-collection efficiency in the SNO experiment has led to a low-cost cooker for the developing world, currently under test.

Our research requires low mass materials and the solutions developed with our design and fabrication workshops have applications in entirely different fields. Our workshops have rare capabilities and fulfil industrial contracts. The metrology demands of particle and accelerator physics drive advances that have wider application. We are developing firmware and hardware (originally from ATLAS and the ILC) for a new readout system for interferometric alignment tools. We already collaborate with and supply industry; we aim to be able to license this new technology similarly.


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