Particle Physics Consolidated Grant 2019

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


Particle physics seeks to understand the Universe, its birth, evolution & fate in terms of the interplay of elementary particles (quarks & leptons), the fundamental forces (strong, electromagnetic & weak forces, & gravity) and force-particles that mediate them (photons, W/Z, gluons & gravitons) and the recently discovered Higgs particle that gives elementary particles mass. The last thirty years have seen the development of a theoretical framework, the Standard Model, in which almost all particle-physics data can be explained. But the model is incomplete. It explains what we encounter on Earth but studies of the cosmos suggest the presence of mysterious dark matter that holds galaxies together and 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 by providing the data to guide the theoretical work to develop it.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reproduces the conditions within a million millionth of a second of the Big Bang. Oxford plays a major role in ATLAS and LHCb. These experiments have the potential to completely revolutionise our understanding of the universe. In ATLAS, Oxford physicists participated in the exciting discovery of the "Higgs particle", which makes matter matter by giving it mass. The Higgs particle is like a curtain; now that we have found the Higgs we can draw back the curtain to see a new world. Accordingly, we are studying it in great detail. We are also searching for particles with "supersymmetry" (SUSY), a theory that would provide a solution to "dark-matter" that makes up about 80% of matter in the Universe; and ATLAS is searching for hidden extra spatial dimensions. Oxford physicists on LHCb strive for a better understanding of the origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe by studying subtle differences in the behaviour of quarks & antiquarks - "CP-violation". This asymmetry permits us to exist.
Over the next decade, the LHC will upgrade to higher energy & intensity so detector improvements will be made for ATLAS & LHCb during this grant. The upgraded detectors will take particle physics to an unprecedented level of sensitivity for the nearly inevitable new-physics observations. Throughout our work we use powerful computing resources and develop cutting-edge analysis tools that are necessary for the extraction of important discoveries from vast volumes of data.
We participate in high-precision experiments complementary to the large experiments at the LHC. LZ addresses one of the most important questions in particle physics & cosmology: a search for dark matter; a candidate is the lightest SUSY particle. Mu3e searches for new physics mediated by very heavy particles that would not be visible at the LHC but are expected in many theoretical models including SUSY. LSST will measure how quickly the expansion of the universe is speeding up due to the mysterious dark energy that represents 75% of all energy in the universe and acts like anti-gravity pushing galaxies apart.
Through T2K, SK, HK, DUNE, & future projects, Oxford aims to understand the elusive neutrino, its "oscillation" from one type to another and whether there is a difference between neutrino and anti-neutrino properties - "CP-violation". SNO+ will measure other properties of the neutrino, e.g. whether or not it is its own antiparticle.
Throughout, Oxford will continue to develop & enhance capabilities in mechanical & electronic design so that we retain the ability to construct the most sophisticated apparatus for our experiments. We will retain our world-leading role for scientific excellence & 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 to be key in producing high-impact applications that break the paradigm rather than contribute to incremental improvements. By working at the cutting edge of new technologies, and utilising the rare capabilities of our design and fabrication workshops to develop low mass materials and solutions and capitalising on our strengths in metrology, significant developments of benefit to a far wider community can be produced. Our current portfolio gives examples of such applications; we fully expect that others will develop during the period of this grant.
Our research into detectors & sensors has applications in many other fields. Work on photomultiplier tubes for LHCb has resulted in Photek UK marketting new photodetectors with wide-ranging applications in PET & neutron imaging, for use in many sectors e.g. space and healthcare. Future work will enable further advances in this technology. CICADA is a detector system we are developing with STFC-RAL targeted at Free Electron Laser facilities, which will benefit many sectors including energy (catalysis), chemistry (phase changes), life sciences (protein imaging), the community of users, and companies who may want to license the technology for mass-production. Enabled by the Oxford Physics Microstructure Detector Laboratory we are collaborating with a cluster of Oxford departments that will exploit Medipix systems. These include new detectors for electron microscopy (Materials Science), improvements in resolution for TOFMS (Chemistry), and work by the Luminescence Dating Laboratory (Archaeology). Our work on scintillator characterization for LZ has enabled contact-free temperature measurement technology for use at beamlines (e.g. Diamond), this will lead to benefits for many users including in health/life science. Building on the successful development of a new DAQ system for optical interferometry we are expanding our industry collaboration into the development of a novel interferometric instrument that will produce a step change to the abilities of our currently licensed interferometry & DAQ technologies. We will further extend the DAQ aspects into the development of an optical PMT readout system with real time pulse shape analysis for the SNO+ upgrade, in collaboration with industry.
The Wow Factor of particle physics- unravelling the mysteries of the universe with huge high-tech infrastructure- makes it ideal to engage people with science. Outreach is a core part of our long term strategy. Existing outreach will be enhanced by three programmes of engagement targeting schools, community groups and the wider public to international scale, helping the public & policymakers appreciate how our understanding of the universe is advancing & the role of projects like the LHC. School workshops will attract more students to study physics at university (increasing the UK's technological competitiveness internationally, building a high-tech skill base in society, education, economy, health & security to directly enhance UK quality of life). These are supplemented by novel approaches: ATLAS/MINEcraft project, LHSee/Collider smartphone apps; and activities: Masterclasses & UNIQ Summer Schools. Citizen science project Higgs Hunters ( allows users to scan displays of Higgs candidate events searching for decays (reaching 37k people from 179 countries). Through annual Stargazing Oxford events (>1000 visitors), our Particle Physics Stall and the Superstrings/Einstein's Universe lectures held within the department and at a wide range of community events and larger science festivals we demonstrate the principles of fundamental particles, electricity and cosmology to critical acclaim, making our science more accessible and encouraging interest in new results as they are announced. The unprecedented media storm around the Higgs discovery in July 2012 indicates significant success in this endeavour.


10 25 50