A team of UT Arlington researchers is designing a new, time-of-flight
detector that could one day significantly boost measurement capabilities at the
Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Physics Professor Andrew Brandt,
who is part of The University of Texas at Arlington’s High Energy Physics Group,
is leading the team. He recently received new U.S. Department of Energy funding
for research and development on the project. Brandt has been working on the new
proton sub-detector since 2006 as a member of the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. His
goal is to construct the fastest detector ever deployed at a particle
accelerator, with 10 picosecond, or trillionths of a second, time resolution.
Two faculty members from UT
Arlington’s College of Engineering are co-principal investigators on the project.
They are Ronald Carter and W. Alan Davis, electrical engineering professor and
associate professor, respectively. Michael Rijssenbeek, physics professor at
Stony Brook University, is also a co-principal investigator.
The Large Hadron Collider at the
European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is the world’s biggest and
most powerful particle accelerator. Thousands of scientists – including several
students and professors from UT Arlington – are observing and analyzing data
from millions of particle collisions there. By studying the components of
particles after they smash together, physicists are hoping to learn more about
the mysteries of the universe, such as why matter dominates the universe.
One search that is central to
the LHC is the hunt for the Higgs boson, the only particle predicted by the
Standard Model of Physics that has not been seen by experiments. Physicists believe interaction with the Higgs
boson gives particles in the universe their mass.
The timing detector being built at UT Arlington
is part of a new proton sub-detector designed especially for the high
intensities at the LHC. It is part of a project called the ATLAS Forward
Proton (AFP) concept, which would add new sub-detectors 220 meters upstream and
downstream from the central ATLAS detector to complement the program.
"Measuring the events where both protons stay intact, yet you
still get a massive system produced by a collision in the central ATLAS
detector would be a new capability for ATLAS and potentially a very exciting
part of the discovery physics program," said Brandt, who in addition to his recent work
on the ATLAS collaboration is a long time member of the D0 Experiment and
Fermilab collider in Illinois.
The time-of-flight component would
give scientists a way to locate the vertex, or collision point, for the protons.
They could do this by measuring the time difference between protons to less
than 3 millimeters accuracy for a 10 picosecond measurement.
The moveable timing device Brandt’s
team is building consists of an array of half-centimeter wide quartz bars or
fibers that act as a series of stopwatches when deflected protons pass through.
The design also includes an
ultra-stable reference clock that could precisely synchronize the time-of-flight
detectors hundreds of meters apart. Ultimately, the new detector could help
determine the characteristics of the mysterious Higgs boson particle, after it
is found, as well as other resonances, Brandt said.
The latest award to Brandt comes from the Energy Department’s
Advanced Detector Research program. It provides $172,139 to complete the
research and development of fast-timing electronics in conjunction with colleagues
from Stony Brook University in New York and University of Alberta in Canada. The electronics development is intended
to be useful not only for the ATLAS upgrade, but also for other picosecond
Earlier this year, Brandt’s team
also shared funding from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business
Innovation Research program with a Massachusetts company called Arradiance. UT
Arlington researchers and the company are working to extend the life of
microchannel plate photomultiplier tubes. These devices are used in high-energy
particle experiments, as well as ground and satellite-based astrophysics,
medical imaging, bio-imaging and drug discoveries.
Sixteen UT Arlington undergraduate
physics majors, four physics graduate students and two electrical engineering
graduate students have worked on aspects of the time-of-flight project over the
last five years, developing skills in data analysis and fast electronics. Many
of them have done this research in the Picosecond Test Facility, a state-of-the
art laser-timing lab located on campus,
In all, the work of Brandt’s
team has brought in close to $500,000 of funding, including an earlier Department
of Energy Advanced Detector Research program grant and a Texas Advanced Research
Program grant that established the Picosecond Test Facility.
UT Arlington’s College of
Science is currently working on more than $7 million in grant-funded projects
related to the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. Funding comes from the Department
of Energy and National Science Foundation. UT Arlington physicists are focused
on the development of computing software to handle the tremendous amount of
data produced at the LHC and the search for the Higgs boson and dark matter,
another physics phenomenon.
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research university of
33,449 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.