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Particle Physicists Look to the Future

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London - Mar 04, 2004
The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council has this week approved a 21 million programme of Accelerator Research and Development for future facilities in particle physics, including a Linear Collider and a possible Neutrino Factory. This will develop the UK academic base in these areas, supporting PPARCs strategic aim of positioning UK academic groups to win major shares in the construction of these facilities.

The Linear Collider has been accepted by the international particle physics community as the next large facility needed and construction could start as early as 2009. It will collide electrons and positrons at high energy, shedding light on the physics that takes place beyond this frontier. UK scientists are focussing on developing the beam delivery system, which will take the accelerated particles to the collision point.

PPARCs investment, in partnership with the CCLRC, which was also allocated funds for this joint programme in Spending Review 2002, will fund a research programme and create two University centres to build on existing UK academic expertise and develop a strong research base in accelerator R&D to enhance the Uks world-leading position in experimental particle physics.

PPARCs Chief Executive, Professor Ian Halliday said The UK particle physics community must position itself to play a leading role in the global linear collider project if we are to remain in the forefront of scientific discovery and the resulting technology returns. To achieve this, we are creating centres of expertise in accelerator physics and funding a major research effort.

The two centres being created are: the Cockcroft Institute: National Centre for Accelerator Science with 7.03 million from PPARC, in partnership with the Northwest Development Agency, the Universities of Liverpool, Lancaster and Manchester, and the Oxford / Royal Holloway Centre with 2.0 million from PPARC, in partnership with the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London.

The partner Universities will expand their expertise in this field, creating 18 new academic posts in total. These centres will work closely with CCLRCs Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC) based at both the Daresbury and Rutherford-Appleton sites to create a world-leading accelerator science capability in the UK.

The Neutrino Factory is a proposed international experiment to study artificially produced neutrinos (most experiments at present study neutrinos created in the Sun or in the Earths atmosphere).

According to the Standard Model of particle physics, neutrinos have zero mass, but recent observations have shown that neutrinos can oscillate between three types which is only possible if they have a non-zero mass. A Neutrino Factory will rely on a beam of muons that decay to create to the neutrinos. A new mechanism has been proposed for cooling the muons to achieve this and the Muon Ionisation Cooling Experiment (MICE) is designed to test this principle.

Professor Halliday added The Uks substantial expertise and existing infrastructure in this area could give it the opportunity to host such a facility by the end of the next decade. Our investment now will position the UK to be a leading partner in the development of this facility.

Breakdown of Funding announced
The total programme announced is worth 21.28 million, of which 18.29 million is new funds and the balance is made of existing grants. The funding for MICE is provisional on the project passing through further review procedures.

Basic Particle Physics
Particle Physicists probe the nature of the Universe around us, studying what the world around us is made of and the forces that influence it. To do this they use high energy machines that accelerate particles to near the speed of light and then collide them, recreating the first moments after the Big Bang when the Universe formed. In this way, they examine the fundamental building blocks and can try to develop a Theory of Everything that explains the characteristics of energy and matter.

Particle physics has over the last century discovered many different subatomic particles and has put much effort into explaining how they interact, the result is known as the Standard Model. There are, however, gaps in the Standard Model that require further study. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europes Particle Physics Laboratory will begin operation in 2007 and hopes to discover the Higgs Boson, a particle needed to explain how particles acquire mass.

Linear Collider Accelerator Beam Delivery (LC-ABD)
The international particle physics community is agreed that to complement the Large Hadron Collider, being constructed at CERN and to extend the opportunity for new discoveries, a linear electron-positron collider is required. UK researchers have been involved in planning for a number of components of such a machine, but a particular focus is being placed on the Beam Delivery System, an area utilising UK expertise.

The Beam Delivery System takes the accelerated particles and focuses them down to the nanometre scales required for collisions in the detector. The LC-ABD collaboration will encompass research and development on the Beam Delivery System and related areas and will be integrated into the international design when the final technology for the Linear Collider is selected. The collaboration consists of CCLRC and 9 Universities: Abertay, Cambridge, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, QMUL, RHUL, and UCL.

Accelerator Centres
PPARC wishes to increase the UK academic base in accelerator physics. To this end, it is funding two Accelerator Centres, with partner Universities creating 18 new academic posts between them.

Cockcroft Institute : National Centre for Accelerator Science The Cockcroft Institute will be established by the Universities of Liverpool, Lancaster and Manchester at Daresbury in Cheshire, on land owned by the Northwest Development Agency. An eight year grant totalling 7.03 million has been awarded to the University of Liverpool as lead institution. In addition, twelve new academic posts will be created at the centre by the three Universities.

Oxford / Royal Holloway, University of London Centre The Oxford / RHUL centre will be split between the two partner Universities and a five year grant of 2 million has been awarded to the University of Oxford as lead institution. The partner Universities will create six new academic posts at the centre.

The UK Neutrino Factory and MICE
One of the most exciting results in particle physics in the past decade is the observation of neutrino 'oscillations'. Neutrinos are elementary particles that exist in three forms called electron, muon and tau neutrinos, and results from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada have demonstrated that they oscillate from one kind to another as they travel over large distances.

This discovery is extremely significant because oscillations can occur only if neutrinos have mass. Since the accepted description of particle physics the Standard Model assumes that neutrinos are massless, this is the first observed breakdown of that model.

So far, oscillations have primarily been observed and studied using 'natural' neutrinos from two sources: the Sun and from the interaction of cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere. However, to make precise measurements of the detailed characteristics of the oscillations will require a new facility, a Neutrino Factory, which can produce very intense beams of neutrinos with well-known characteristics. Ionization cooling is a key concept in the design of a neutrino factory, and MICE (the Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment) aims to demonstrate this cooling technology.

The collaboration of more than 150 physicists and engineers from the UK, continental Europe, the US and Japan propose to design, build and test a section of a realistic cooling channel on a beam line, which could be constructed on the ISIS accelerator at the CCLRCs Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.

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Research On Tiniest Particles Could Have Far-Reaching Effects
Seattle - Feb 16, 2004
Neutrinos are about the tiniest things in existence, but developing a greater understanding of what they are and how they function is likely to have a huge impact in the next few years. The subatomic particles, created in the nuclear furnaces of the sun and other stars, have no electrical charge and only recently has it been found that they have any mass at all, yet billions pour through each human body every second with no discernable effect or interaction.

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