Particle physicists look to the future

March 03, 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 PPARC's 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.

PPARC's 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 UK's world-leading position in experimental particle physics.

PPARC's 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 CCLRC's 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 Earth's 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 UK's 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."

Science and Technology Facilities Council

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