Oxford Consolidated Grant Application 2012

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


Particle physics seeks to understand the Universe and its evolution in terms of the interplay of elementary particles (the quarks and leptons) the fundamental forces (the strong, electromagnetic, and weak forces and gravity) and the force-particles that mediate them (photons, W/Z, gluons and gravitons). The last thirty years has seen the development of a robust and extremely successful theoretical framework, known as the Standard Model, in which almost all of the available particle-physics data can be explained. However, whilst this is a beautiful theory, the model is incomplete since it doesn't completely explain the world that we see around us. Oxford's research programme will advance significantly our understanding of whatever "new-physics" theory will emerge to replace the Standard Model, and will guide the theoretical work to develop it.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is now running at the energy frontier of high-energy physics, and reproduces the conditions within milliseconds of the Big Bang. Oxford plays a major role in the detector operation and the extraction of physics results from both the ATLAS and LHCb experiments. These experiments have the potential to completely revolutionise our understanding of particle physics. In ATLAS, Oxford physicists are searching for the elusive "Higgs particle", whose field is believed to be responsible for giving mass to the Universe. We are also searching for particles having "supersymmetry" (SUSY), a theory that would provide a solution to the "dark-matter" that makes up a large fraction of the Universe; ATLAS is also searching for extra dimensions. Oxford physicists on the LHCb experiment 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 and antiquarks - "CP-violation".
Over the next decade, the LHC will upgrade to higher energy and intensity, and so detector improvements are being prepared for both ATLAS and LHCb. The upgraded detectors will take particle physics to an unprecedented limit of sensitivity for the inevitable new-physics observations. Throughout our work we are enabling powerful computing resources and analysis tools that are necessary for the extraction of vast volumes of data.
We participate in high-precision experiments which are complementary to the large experiments at the LHC. The EDELWEISS experiment is exploring some of the most important questions in particle physics and cosmology; in particular the direct search for dark matter, a candidate being the lightest SUSY particle. Similarly the nEDM experiment will measure the neutron electric dipole moment down to unprecedented precision, and which will also complement measurements of CP-violation from the LHCb experiment.
Through the T2K experiment in Japan and projects still at their inception, Oxford physicists aim for a better understanding the elusive neutrino, and in particular its "oscillation" from one flavour to another. The SNO+ experiment will measure other fundamental properties of the neutrino, such as whether or not it is its own antiparticle. We already have made some Standard Model measurements to great precision in the CDF and ZEUS experiments - such as the mass of the weak-force carrier, the W boson, and the detailed structure of the proton. These results will be carried forward to LHC analyses, illustrating the power and importance of experimental evolution.
Throughout our research, Oxford will continue to develop and enhance our capabilities in mechanical and electronic design so that we will retain the ability to construct the most sophisticated apparatus of whatever size may be required for our physics objectives. We are determined to retain our world-leading role for scientific excellence and major state-of-the-art detector construction in particle physics for the future. These are exciting times for particle physics, and Oxford are determined to play a major role.

Planned Impact

Curiosity-driven research has been shown many times to be a key factor in producing high-impact applications that break the paradigm rather than contribute to incremental improvements. The research in this proposal contributes to the possibility that, by working at the cutting edge of new technologies, significant developments of benefit to a far wider community can be produced. Our current portfolio gives examples of such applications and we fully expect that others will develop during the period of this grant.
Our research into detectors and sensors has applications in many other fields. The PImMS project is developing fast, silicon detectors from particle physics into pixelated sensors for imaging of low-energy ions. Patents have been granted and a project with industry is underway to develop a new, high-throughput, mass spectrometer. Work on scintillator technology for neutrino projects is now offering benefits for the security sector: the MARS project is underway to develop sensitive detectors for neutrons and anti-neutrinos for security and non-proliferation applications. Detection of magnetic fields for measurements of the electric dipole moment of the neutron (nEDM project) is improving the immunity of SQUID magnetometers to extraneous RF electromagnetic radiation. This will find wider application, e.g. in geophysics, where sensitive measurements are required. The need to optimise light-collection efficiency in the SNO experiment has led to a collaborative project designing a low-cost solar concentrator that could be used as part of a generator in the developing world.
Our research also continues to operate under very significant constraints such as low mass, size or conductivity and the solutions we develop, often in close collaboration with our design and fabrication workshops, will have applications in entirely different fields. Indeed our workshops have capabilities beyond normal commercial offerings and are themselves fulfilling industrial contracts. The metrology demands of particle and accelerator physics are also intense and drive advances that have wider application. Frequency-scanning interferometry technology originally from ATLAS and the ILC is now being developed for wider use through an industrial partner, while the related analysis software is also expected to be integrated into a commercial package.
Oxford's develoments in cloud computing for particle physics analysis, requiring security, ease of deployment and appropriate compilers, have already led to distribution of free software, a spin-out company, eMediaTrack Ltd, and their use in data-processing projects as diverse as healthcare, insurance and radio astronomy. The potential for improvement in energy efficiency via distributed computing is huge. The underlying emulator software is extending the accessibility of legacy code and has been used to teach programming in Indo-Aryan languages.
Both the methods and outcomes of our research attract great public interest and our outreach programmes involve schoolchildren, the general public and policymakers in appreciating how our understanding of the universe is advancing and the role of projects such as the LHC. Our schools activities help attract students to study physics at university and are being supplemented by novel approaches such as the LHSee smartphone application, and other educational resources we are developing. The Superstrings and Einstein's Universe lectures, bringing together particle physics, cosmology and music, have attracted critical acclaim and interest from communities outside science and will continue to develop with lectures based on new commissioned compositions for performance from 2012. Our talks and events for the wider public aim to make our science more accessible and to encourage interest in new results from our experiments as they are announced. The huge media interest in early data on the Higgs in December 2011 is indicative of significant success in this endeavour.


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Description The Oxford consolidated grant has lead to world-class research including measuring Higgs, CP-violation and neutrino mixing measurements. Pentaquarks have been discoved in LHCb. The properties of the Higgs boson have been established with ATLAS. This has resulted in outstanding fundamental physics knowledge for mankind. The Oxford group have lead Research and Development programmes for current and future experiments.
Exploitation Route Scientific knowledge produced by the Oxford Consolidated Grant is a legacy for mankind. Research and Development on silicon detectors, low mass structures and photon detectors have industrial and commercial applications.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Security and Diplomacy

Description The Oxford consolidated grant has lead to world-class research including measuring Higgs properties, CP-violation and neutrino mixing measurements. This has resulted in outstanding fundamental physics knowledge for mankind. Research and Development for current and future experiments have applications in sensor and lightweight structures development (ATLAS), information technology (GRID computing), medical physics (LHCb and TORCH), and national security (MARS project).
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic