Particle Physics Consolidated Grant from the University of Sheffield: Energy Frontier, Neutrinos, Dark Matter

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

Abstract

"What is the Universe made of, and why?" Sheffield's HEP programme aims to address this fundamental question. There are two problems here: about 5/6 of the matter in the Universe seems to be an as yet undiscovered particle (dark matter), and the remaining 1/6 is all matter - not the 50:50 matter-antimatter mix we make in laboratories.
We search for the dark matter particle in two ways: at the energy frontier, by seeking to detect new particles created by the high-energy proton-proton collisions of the LHC at CERN, and in direct searches, attempting to observe these particles in the Galaxy itself. The theory of supersymmetry, which predicts a whole set of particles related to, but more massive than, the known particles of the Standard Model (SM), offers a candidate dark matter particle. If supersymmetric particles can be made at the LHC, they should be detected in ATLAS. Our programme searches specifically for new Higgs bosons and for particles related to the SM quarks and gluons. At ATLAS, we also study SM processes involving the force carriers of the weak interaction, probing our understanding of the SM. Looking to the future, we are contributing essential work to the upgrade of the ATLAS experiment required to take full advantage of higher event rates in future running of the LHC.
Most of the matter in our Galaxy is dark matter. In the LZ experiment, we search for evidence of dark matter colliding with Xe atoms in the experiment and causing them to recoil. This experiment will be the most sensitive dark matter detector ever constructed. Understanding possible background - non-dark-matter - events is critical to this, and we have world leading expertise in this field. In addition, we are leading the development of directional dark matter detectors, which will be vital in proving that any candidate signal really does come from the Galaxy and not the Earth. We are also the only UK group involved in the search for axions: another possible type of dark matter particle which cannot be detected at the LHC or in standard dark matter experiments.
Why is the matter in the Universe all matter, not antimatter? The answer to this question must lie in subtle differences between particles and antiparticles, an effect called CP violation. The CP violating effects so far observed are not nearly large enough to create the Universe we see. The most likely source for more CP violation is in the interactions of neutrinos. A key observation is that neutrinos have mass, and that different types of neutrinos can interchange their identities in flight. The T2K experiment has made measurements of this, and has detected tantalising hints of CP violation. We plan to build on this work, both in running experiments (T2K and SBND) and in designing the next generation of neutrino experiments which will have much greater sensitivity. We have developed tools to assist the neutrino community in comparing results and improving our understanding of how neutrinos interact. Our access to Boulby Mine provides an invaluable low-background laboratory for testing materials and detector prototypes.
Last but not least, we seek to apply HEP technology to industry and to solving global problems. We are using techniques developed for ATLAS to contribute to the development of robotics and to deal with highly radioactive environments such as Chernobyl. We are designing muon detectors to search for nuclear contraband and monitor volcanoes. Our signal processing techniques are being applied to improving medical imaging for heart patients. Our expertise in water Cherenkov neutrino detection is being exploited in an experiment designed to monitor compliance with nuclear non-proliferation treaties. All of this work builds on our STFC core programme to benefit the wider world.

Planned Impact

We maintain a wide-ranging R&D programme, based on our STFC core activities, which has impacts in many areas.

Industry benefits from our work. Some of our R&D is directly focused on meeting the needs of UK industry, for example our work on robotics, radiation monitoring, muon tomography, and signal processing applied to medical and engineering applications. Industry benefits through the development of new products, e.g. specialist welding rigs, robotic inspection devices, re-manufacturing techniques for aerospace components, and plastic scintillator, which are commercially viable. Examples of companies benefiting from our work include Shadow Robot, Rolls-Royce Aerospace, LabLogic Systems, Creavo Medical Technologies and Durridge (UK) Ltd. These benefits have arisen directly from our core STFC work on ATLAS, neutrino physics, dark matter direct detection, and gravitational waves. We also assist UK industry in winning contracts for particle physics engineering projects, such as the anode plane assembly frames for SBND and ProtoDUNE.

Developing nations will benefit from our work. We plan to apply our muon tomography work to monitoring active volcanoes, providing an early warning system which can save lives.

Global security benefits from our work. The WATCHMAN project aims to use technology from neutrino physics to monitor reactor activity, providing a way to check compliance with nuclear non-proliferation treaties. Our muon tomography work has been applied to scanning cargo containers for clandestine nuclear materials. We are working with industry to produce robotic devices that can explore high-radiation environments, helping to develop safe ways to decommission nuclear facilities.

The environment benefits from our work. We have studied the use of muon tomography to monitor underground carbon dioxide repositories for carbon capture and storage. Our signal processing work has applications in motor control, improving the efficiency of electric motors and thereby offering significant power savings.

Public health will benefit from our work. We are applying signal processing techniques to improve the performance of magnetic heart monitors used to triage cardiac patients. We are also investigating the application of our liquid argon and large area photosensor development work to medical imaging, potentially improving the performance of diagnostic equipment such as PET scanners.

The public understanding of science benefits from our work. Over the past three years, our programme of public and schools lectures, demonstrations and interactive exhibits has reached at least 5000 people (including 3000 schoolchildren). We give lectures at teachers' professional development schools and target schools with low rates of progress to higher education. We are committed to publicising the UK's role in cutting-edge STFC science to the widest possible audience.

Publications

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Aaboud M (2019) ATLAS Collaboration in Nuclear Physics A

 
Description ATLAS Collaboration 
Organisation ATLAS Experiment
Country Switzerland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Sheffield team is a founder of the ATLAS experiment at CERN and contributes to its construction, development and exploitation
Collaborator Contribution Construction of the Semiconductor tracker, development of the software and computing of the experiment. Physics analysis, Higgs, Standard Model, Supersymmetry, top
Impact Discovery of the Higgs boson and many others
 
Description Collaboration with SuperKamiokande (SuperK) Collaboration 
Organisation Super-Kamiokande
Country Japan 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Selected members of the UK HyperKamiokande team, including Lee Thompson and Andrew Cole from Sheffield joined SuperK in January 2016. We are working with members of the SuperK EGADS team on measuring the activity of Gadolinium samples at the so-called Boulby Underground Germanium Suite (BUGS) at STFC's Boulby Underground Lab. There are also plans to use SuperK as a testbench ofr some of the HyperK calibration work that we are involved in.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in calibration. Production of Gd samples. Expertise in handing and measurement of Gd samples.
Impact Work is ongoing, no direct impact yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Description SilentBorder 
Organisation University of Tartu
Country Estonia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a project funded by Horizon 2020 in collaboration with the University of Tartu, Universite Catholique de Louvain, German Aerospace Centre, G-Scan, SGS, CAEN and border agencies. The collaboration is working on a muon tomography system for scanning lorries and containers.
Collaborator Contribution This is a project funded by Horizon 2020 in collaboration with the University of Tartu, Universite Catholique de Louvain, German Aerospace Centre, G-Scan, SGS, CAEN and border agencies. The collaboration is working on a muon tomography system for scanning lorries and containers.
Impact Multidisciplinary collaboration involving universities and industrial partners. Disciplines: particle physics, engineering, electronics, border security.
Start Year 2020
 
Company Name GEOPTIC LIMITED 
Description Geoptic provides cosmic ray imaging services to the civil engineering sector. Our novel technique is able see through many tens of metres of soil and rock, or equivalent materials, in order to identify regions of anomalous density. 
Year Established 2019 
Impact Work with Network Rail to image railway tunnels to locate and characterise hidden shafts.
Website https://www.geoptic.co.uk/
 
Description International Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 40 pupils attended the research institute, learned about particle physics and participated in hands-on exerices on particle physics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://indico.shef.ac.uk/event/31/
 
Description Interview with The New York Times magazine (Science) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview with a science journalist of The New York Times magazine (Science). Extract published in the magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Talk at a conference for undergraduate students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A PDRA gave a review talk at a conference for students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Talk in local school 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A PDRA gave a talk in a local school
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Talking to New Scientist (NL) for article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Response to dutch journalist in response to a new measurements (and press release by CERN/ the ATLAS experiment)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.newscientist.nl/nieuws/lhc-ziet-deeltjes-met-massa-ontstaan-uit-botsing-massaloze-lichtd...
 
Description Virtual international masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact discussed with school students on particle physics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://indico.shef.ac.uk/event/34/