IIHE - Interuniversity Institute for High Energies (ULB-VUB)The IIHE was created in 1972 at the initiative of the academic authorities of both the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Its main topic of research is the physics of elementary particles.
The present research programme is based on the extensive use of the high energy particle accelerators and experimental facilities at CERN (Switzerland) and DESY (Germany) as well as on non-accelerator experiments at the South Pole.
The main goal of this experiments is the study of the strong, electromagnetic and weak interactions of the most elementary building blocks of matter. All these experiments are performed in the framework of large international collaborations and have led to important R&D activities and/or applications concerning particle detectors and computing and networking systems.
Research at the IIHE is mainly funded by Belgian national and regional agencies, in particular the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) en het Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) and by both universities through their Research Councils.
The IIHE includes 19 members of the permanent scientific staff, 20 postdocs and guests, 31 doctoral students, 8 masters students, and 15 engineering, computing and administrative professionals.
The needle in the haystack
Physicists working in the CMS experiment regularly have to spend their time searching for a needle in a haystack. In other words we look for the rarest of rare collisions that represent very unlikely physics processes. An example of work done at the IIHE is the search for the production of four top quarks (the needle) in the huge dataset recorded by CMS in 2012 (the haystack). Our results put an extremely tight limit on the production of four top quarks, indeed the tightest limit at the LHC so far. As four top quarks are also produced in many new theories of physics such as supersymmetry, this limit can tell us a lot about the validity of these theories.
The pheno group — A hint for supersymmetry?
Particle physics phenomenology studies the implications of a theoretical model on experiments in high-energy particle physics and the other way round. From the experimental side, the CMS Collaboration observed in a certain search region 12 events more than expected based on the Standard Model of Particle Physics. Can this be explained by theories that go beyond the Standard Model like supersymmetry? Scientists from the pheno group at the IIHE as well as from the theory group at the ULB collaborated to answer this question. The figure shows how the number of events predicted by a simple supersymmetric model depends on the parameters of the model. The two free parameters, the mass of the stau and the selectron, are shown on the x- and y-axis while the number of events is indicated by the colours. Since we are looking for 12 events coming from new physics, we see from the figure that the model with selectron mass 145 GeV and stau mass 90 GeV can account for the observation of CMS.
IIHE students at the South Pole
Falling off the earth is a serious risk at the South Pole. Down there, at the very end of the world, everything is different.. At the Inter-university Institute for High Energies (IIHE) in Brussels we are involved in a world wide effort to search for high-energy neutrinos originating from cosmic phenomena. For this we use the IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole, the world's largest neutrino telescope which is now completed and taking data.
Pinning down the bottom, charm and top quark
The bottom quark, discovered in 1977, is special, as in LHC collisions it usually lives in unstable particles that travel a few millimeters before they transition into particles that physicists can identify with our very accurate tracking detectors. At the IIHE we are leading the effort in the CMS experiment to identify bottom (or beauty) quarks. Bottom quarks are also extremely useful to identify top quarks, the heaviest known elementary particle, and Brout-Englert-Higgs bosons. At the IIHE we are also developing the tools to distinguish collisions containing bottom quarks from those where charm quarks are produced. This will be extremely useful to study how often top quarks decay to charm quarks instead of b-quarks, a very rare process in the Standard Model that if larger than expected would be a convincing sign for new physics!
IceCube observes first hint of astrophysical high-energy neutrinos
Two neutrino candidate events detected at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, dubbed "Bert and Ernie", are the two highest energy neutrinos ever observed so far, with an estimated deposited energy of about 1 PeV. The IceCube event displays of these two events are shown in the figures below, where for comparison one should realize that a single event covers an area comparable with the Maracana football stadium in Rio de Janeiro! The probability that these two events are not background, i.e. anything else in the detector besides astrophysical neutrinos, is at the 2.8 sigma level and does not allow claiming a first observation of astrophysical neutrinos. Further details may be found in Physical Review Letters 111 (2013) 081801. To improve the detection sensitivity, a follow-up search on the same data period has been conducted. The new analysis selects high-energy neutrino events with vertices well contained in the detector volume and exploits veto algorithms by using the outer layers of IceCube sensors. By means of this new analysis method 26 new events have been detected. The entire sample of 28 events has properties consistent in flavour, arrival direction and energy with generic expectations for neutrinos of extraterrestrial origin.
First results from a realistic modeling of radio emission by particle cascades in ice
In the previous decade several new experiments (ANITA, NuMoon, ARA, ARIANNA) were proposed to detect high energy (>EeV) neutrino induced particle cascades in dense media such as ice, salt, and moon rock. At the highest energies, these neutrino's are extremely rare and a large detector volume is needed to detect them. Due to the long attenuation length, the detection of the produced radio signals is the most promising tool to search for these rare events. In light of these new experimental efforts, the EVA-code, originally constructed to model radio emission from cosmic-ray-induced air showers, is under development to model radio emission from particle cascades in the South-Pole ice. The ice geometry is included into the code, as well as a parameterized model for the particle cascade. Furthermore, the original EVA-code already incorporated Cherenkov effects in the emission for radio signals moving on curved paths due to a density gradient in the medium. The figure below shows a preliminary result for the electric field as seen by an observer positioned at the ice-air interface. The particle cascade starts at 330 meters depth traveling approximately 10 meters straight upward in the ice until it dies out. The pulses as seen by observers at different lateral distances ranging from 10 m to 300 m are shown. It is seen that the pulse becomes sharper moving outward toward the Cherenkov cone at a lateral distance of approximately 330 meters."
Shown here is a record breaking event from the 2010 LHC run at the Compact Muon Solenoid,
a collision event with both an electron and very high missing transverse energy. The electron is represented by the red trapezoid (the length is proportional to the electron's energy), while the transverse energy is represented by the red arrow. Missing transverse energy is a quantity used to identify particles that did not leave a detectable signature. The IIHE is actively involved in the study of this kind of collisions, in collaboration with other groups of the CMS experiment. If the rate of these kind of collisions would be unexpectedly high, it would be a hint of the existence of, for example, extra dimensions.
The Compact Muon Solenoid forward tracker was partly built at the IIHE.
Here you see the assembly of several of the (black) support structures on which the tracker detectors were mounted. The IIHE contributed to the construction of the over 200 square meter silicon tracker, the most ambitious particle tracking detector ever built. Other contributions were made to the assembly of detector modules and the installation on the detector. Each detector element can identify the path of charged particles to a precision of up to 1/100 millimeters.
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