Digital electronics for a time projection chamber at Birmingham; Facilitating high resolution resonant scattering measurements

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The extent to which nuclei can comprise lighter nuclear clusters in low-mass systems directly influences astrophysical production and decay rates. At the same time, studying such nuclear clustering gives an insight into the strong nuclear force. Making precision measurements of how nuclei scatter from each other offers a very selective method for accessing exotic clustering. To perform such experiments requires a special type of gas detector, that can 'image' the tracks of the nuclei before and after a collision, giving access to the energy of the interaction and, crucially, the energies and directions of the particles after they scatter. It is this precise angular information that enables the cluster structure to be elucidated. Once such properties are known, their influence on energy and element production in stars can be quantified. The aim of the present equipment grant is to use digital electronics in the development of a UK-based detector capable of delivering these precision data in light nuclei. We will construct this at our existing stable-beam MC40 cyclotron facility. The electronics will also be used to improve the performance of our experiments using novel unstable beams at overseas laboratories. This multi-pronged approach will yield high-quality data on a range of nuclei, to systematically explore these interesting structures that affect our understanding of how the universe evolved.

Planned Impact

There are two areas of impact related to this proposal: knowledge exchange and public understanding of science and outreach.

The Birmingham Nuclear Physics Group will seek to maximise impact from its nationally leading MC40 cyclotron. This feeds into a strand around the public understanding of science. The research that is outlined in this proposal has the potential to capture the imagination and to inspire a new generation of scientists. One part of the proposed research programme is involved in studying nuclear structure responsible for the synthesis of elements in stars. Understanding the structure of such states is a challenge that is relevant not only to nuclear science but also the origins of the matter we see in the universe today. Our group has an excellent track record in bringing its work to the awareness of the general public. We will continue to do this with the aspiration to inform and to educate.

Secondly, the group has an extensive outreach programme, interacting with local schools and regional science centres and hosting events at the University. Previously we developed and hosted a Nuclear Physics Masterclass for Y11 school students and a "Girls in STEM" day workshop for Y9 pupils to give two examples. We are committed to repeating many of these on an annual basis.


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