Particle Physics Experimental Consolidated Grant (2019-2022)

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


The Particle Physics Group at 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 Particle Physics Group plays a leading role on two of the main experiments at tbe 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 Higgs boson, which was originally discovered at the LHC. 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. 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.

The Muon g-2 experiment at will examine the precession of muons that are subjected to a magnetic field. The main goal is to test the Standard Model's predictions of this value by measuring the precession rate to a precision of 0.14 parts per million. If there is an inconsistency, it could indicate the Standard Model is incomplete. The goal of the Mu2e experiment is to find conversions of muons into electrons without the emission of neutrinos.

Understanding the properties of the elusive neutrino is another priority of our research programme. With the SuperNEMO detector, 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, DUNE, 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 (SBND/MicroBooNE) uses neutrinos close to the source at Fermilab 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. We develop and apply sophisticated analysis techniques to large data sets.

Finally, through our outreach programme, we communicate the results of our research to the public through the media, public lectures and masterclasses.

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.

New activities involve the use of 3D technology for micro-dosimetry in radiotherapy treatments, which was proposed by SINTEF following a University of Manchester idea. Specific beneficiaries are the processing facilities as these 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, with several industries and groups producing modified 3D sensors.

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.

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. We led the introduction of the "Tactile Collider", an STFC-funded project to perform outreach to visually-impaired audiences in novel ways. Tactile Collider is currently in a national
tour of visually impaired schools, and was made into a programme on Radio 4.

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 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.