UCL Experimental Particle Physics Consolidated Grant (2022-2025)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

Experimental particle physics studies extremely small sizes, or equivalently high energies. We seek to understand the nature of the physical universe in terms of fundamental forces and particles to answer the simple question: how did our universe evolve? Experiments capable of reaching these extremes are technically demanding, requiring precision detectors which can operate in hostile environments, particle accelerators which can collide beams at very high energies, super-sensitive detectors capable of identifying very rare decays, high-speed electronics to read a million pieces of information per second & software to analyse petabytes of data using the latest data-mining techniques.

This is a "consolidated grant", underpinning the base of highly skilled research & technical staff which allows UCL to lead projects at the very highest levels. It provides the support that allows the group to effectively train PhD students & young post-doc researchers. The science this will support includes:
- Understand the properties and exact nature of the Higgs boson, search for new physics at the LHC, and upgrade the ATLAS experiment.
- Measure with exquisite precision the magnetic dipole moment of the muon, the heavier version of the electron, confronting a long-standing anomaly which may indicate new fundamental physics.
- Understand why we live in a universe dominated by matter rather than anti-matter, in contrast to the conditions immediately after the Big Bang. Neutrino oscillations, which may show a difference between the behaviour of neutrinos and anti-neutrinos, are studied with the NOvA experiment, and soon with the massive DUNE experiment that we are helping to construct. UCL will analyse data from SuperNEMO and the new LEGEND experiment, which will search for the incredibly rare process whereby matter is spontaneously created inside the nucleus when it undergoes double-beta decay, yielding insights into how the cosmological matter-antimatter asymmetry may have arisen.
- Seek evidence for dark matter (DM), that makes up the majority of matter in the universe, with the LZ experiment that is sensitive to the fleeting signatures that DM particles in our galaxy leave if they bounce off atoms in the detector.
- Search for phenomena at extremely high energies, well beyond the reach of man-made accelerators. The PUEO experiment searches for ultra-high energy neutrino interactions in Antarctica.
- Look for evidence of exceedingly rare processes whereby a muon converts into 1 or 3 electrons; observing this process would be a clear sign of new physics.
- Develop new accelerator and detector technologies for future experiments. We are looking at paradigm-shifting accelerator technologies that may allow us to achieve higher energies in compact devices through the AWAKE project. We perform underpinning R&D that will allow us to build the next-generation of 10x larger underground detectors for DM and other rare event searches.
- Seek to test the long-established theory of QED in new, extreme environments similar to those found in astrophysical objects through the LUXE experiment.
- Deploy novel quantum technologies to dramatically improve the the prospect of measuring the neutrino mass, and consider how particle physics computations can be carried out vastly quicker on quantum computers.
- Share our results with other scientists and industry. Our accelerator and radiation measurement expertise can be applied to various sectors, and we cooperate with instrument manufacturers to develop better products for our own research and for other users. Of particular importance is our work to develop the use of proton beams for cancer treatment, building on our close relationship with UCL-Hospitals.

Some of this work is funded by other grants but is all underpinned by the technical expertise being supported by this grant, which is vital to secure the scientific progress and wider benefits that we seek.

Publications

10 25 50