first_imgAddThis Share CONTACT: Lia Unrau PHONE: (713)831-4793E-MAIL:[email protected] RESEARCHERS JOIN GLOBAL HIGH-ENERGY PHYSICSQUESTThe world of high-energy physics islooking forward to the next-generation accelerator and detector machines, whichthanks in part to Rice researchers, will power up in 2005.Rice is part of a global collaboration to build the LargeHadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics inGeneva.With the LHC comes the hope that scientists will be able tounderstand one of the fundamental questions in particle physics–why doparticles weigh anything, why do they have mass?The origin of mass in the standard model is the last openquestion in the unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces. Using theLHC, scientists hope to discover the Higgs boson, the hypothetical particle thatis the quantum of the field that generates mass.The Rice effort is spearheaded by Faculty Fellow Paul Padleyand Professor of Physics Jay Roberts. Rice is responsible for the design andconstruction of equipment that is budgeted by a $1.6 million grant from theDepartment of Energy.The Rice equipment is part of the US CMS, or Compact MuonSolenoid, project. The US CMS is part of the United States’ contribution, whichwill mainly be in the form of accelerator and detector components, to theoverall CMS project at CERN. The CMS is one of two detectors being built as partof the LHC.A total of about 1,650 physicists at 149 institutions aroundthe world are involved in the construction of the CMS.“We hope to actually observe the creation of the Higgs boson,” said Billy Bonner, director of the Bonner Nuclear Laboratory. Scientists alsohope to see evidence of other speculative theories, such as supersymmetry andstring theory.“It is not at all unlikely that we will discover hints ofsupersymmetry, or supersymetric partners of the particles that are alreadyknown,” Bonner said. “And it’s conceivable that we could see things at the LHCthat demonstrate that string theory does manifest itself at levels that areactually accessible.”Rice physicists are responsible for major components of the “endcap muon system”, including the endcap muon chambers and the trigger anddata acquisition system. Rice is designing and constructing several parts of thetrigger electronics, the part of the detector that decides which events areimportant to look at.In a world where particles whiz by at the speed of light and 40million collisions occur each second, every, well, nanosecond counts. Anelaborate detection system with “smart devices” is needed to filter out thetypical data and identify highlights or unusual features. Every 25 nanoseconds aburst of particles is hitting the detector, creating eight megabytes ofdata–far too much to process with current technology.Researchers must design different levels of hardware toidentify interesting events. For example, the trigger looks for the particularcharacteristics of a hard collision–one hallmark is a high energy particlespewing out at a right angle. Then events of that type will be filtered down by300 or 1,000 and examined in more detail. In the end, only 100 events per secondwill be saved for later “offline” analysis. Head-on collisions will be rare, and the processes whichproduce new particles will be rarer still. The trigger must continuously filterthe events, looking for more detailed characteristics, all in a matter of amicrosecond and snychronized to nanosecond precision. The Higgs boson isexpected to appear in just one of every 10 million collisions–perhaps aboutonce a day. The physicists will need a high degree of synchronicity andintelligent processing, and Rice researchers must design and build complexelectronic circuits that push the edge of electronics, fiber optics and datatransmission technology. If necessary they will evolve and invent newelectronics that will perform at the necessary level.In addition, the system must run cheaply on low power, but athigh speed, both to capture the data and to transmit timing signals across the27 km-long tunnel.Padley, principal investigator for the grant, along withDistinguished Faculty Fellow Ed Platner are leading Rice’s efforts in theelectronics projects. “We always try to use existing technology but we may have topush the technology ourselves to get what we need,” Padley said.“The challenge is large and our desires are great,” he said.“We want to do as much as possible.”Rice has also been working to develop a promising newtechnology called multi-gap resistive plate chambers, which will be integratedinto the overall detector.For the data analysis element, Rice will augment Rice trackingsoftware that was written for use at Fermilab, the Fermi National AcceleratorLaboratory located outside Chicago. The tracking software combines particle datato show the actual paths the particles took through the detector.“Not all university groups have the capability to take on aconstruction project of this magnitude,” said Bonner. “We are fortunate that wecan.”Mikhail Matveev, a research scientist, and Nick Adams, aresearch technician in physics, are also instrumental to the project. Inaddition, there are several students working on their theses and a number ofundergraduates involved.“We have been able to break off a little piece and bring ithome to the campus and call it our own,” Padley said. Scientists could be on their way to finding the theory thatunifies all the forces of nature including gravity–Einstein’s dream of so manyyears ago.“My opinion is that this is the best path to follow tounderstanding the forces of nature,” Padley said. “If the Higgs boson exists wewill see it at the LHC.”Rice University is a leading American researchuniversity–small, private, and highly selective–distinguished by its superiorteaching, commitment to undergraduate education, outstanding graduate andprofessional programs, residential college system, collaborative andinterdisciplinary culture, and global perspective.###last_img