Scientists Celebrate First Physics Results from the LHC

Posted on Tuesday 1st December 2009

Birmingham physicists have played a key role in producing the first results from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, a 27km underground tunnel near Geneva, where scientists are colliding together particles to discover what happened a millionth of a second after the Big Bang.

These results have come out of the ALICE collaboration’s detector which will study the physics from ultra-high energy proton-proton and lead-lead interactions. 

Protons were collided at the LHC for the first time on Monday 23 November at relatively low energies.  High energy collisions are expected early next year when physicists hope to discover new secrets about the nature of matter and the early universe. 

Physicists from the University of Birmingham played a key role in analysing these collisions and producing the first results from the atom-smasher near Geneva. ‘I’m immensely proud of the team who have worked so hard’, said Dr David Evans, head of the University of Birmingham’s ALICE group at the School of Physics and Astronomy.  ‘They have been working around the clock at CERN in order to get these results out so quickly.’ 

The Birmingham group have also designed and built the vital ALICE trigger electronics which instruct the detector to record data after a collision, making decisions in less than a tenth of a millionth of a second. ‘Although we may have to wait a while for the results from high energy collisions’, added Dr Evans, ‘getting results out this early from a new detector is a major achievement.  It also shows just how well the detector and the Birmingham-built electronics work.’

The results will appear in European Journal of Physics, http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.5430

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Notes to Editors

Photos and figures can be found at: http://epweb2.ph.bham.ac.uk/user/evans/photos09/

Background information on the first results from ALICE

When two protons collide in the LHC some of the energy is converted into mass (using Einstein’s E=mc2) in the form of electrically charged particles and antimatter particles (anti-particles). These particles and anti-particles fly out from the collision point and are detected in the ALICE detector. ALICE has shown that the average number of particles and anti-particles produced at these lower energy collisions is consistent with that predicted by theory and earlier results, from previous experiments, using proton anti-proton collisions (although this is the first time they’ve been measured in proton-proton collisions).    

Background information on ALICE

ALICE is one of the four main experiments at the CERN LHC and will study the physics from ultra-high energy proton-proton and lead-lead interactions. ALICE will explore the first instants of the Universe a few microseconds after the Big Bang, when matter was in its primordial state, a ‘soup’ of fundamental particles called quarks and gluons. 

The ALICE Collaboration consists of around 1000 physicists and engineers from about 100 institutes in 30 countries. The University of Birmingham plays a vital role being responsible for the design and construction of the central trigger electronics and corresponding software.  In addition the UK group is making an important contribution to the preparations for analysing the first data.

The ALICE detector is the result of 20 years R&D and development.  It is placed in the LHC ring, some 300 feet (100 metres) underground, is 52 feet (16 metres) high, 85 feet (26 metres) long, and weighs about 10,000 tons.

ALICE utilises state-of-the-art technology including high precision systems for the detection and tracking of subatomic particles, ultra-miniaturised systems for the processing of electronic signals, and a worldwide distribution network of the computing resources for data analysis (the GRID). Many of these technological developments have direct implications for everyday life such as medical imaging, microelectronics and information technology.

For further information

Kate Chapple, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772 or 07789 921164