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Elementary Particle Physics

A new generation of particle detectors

Munich, February 4th, 2019

Researchers from LMU Munich make decisive contributions to the future of the ATLAS experiment.

The support structure of one of the two New Small Wheels, already under construction at CERN. (Photo: Dr. Sascha Mehlhase)

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In December last year the ATLAS-Experiment as well as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its other experiments went into a two-year maintenance phase, the 'Long Shutdown 2'. But even without particle collisions, there is a lot to do for the ATLAS collaboration. Besides analysing the data taken over the past four years, the upgrade and maintenance of various detector components and, most importantly, the installation of new detectors are on the agenda. This work will prepare the ATLAS experiment for the restart of data taking in 2021 and is a first step towards the High-Luminosity LHC foreseen to start in 2026.

The installation of the greatest weight, figuratively and literally, are the approximately ten-meter-high 'New Small Wheels' (NSW), in whose construction the group of Prof. Otmar Biebel at the Chair of Elementary Particle Physics is also involved. With new detector technologies, such as small-strip thin-gap chambers and large-scale Micromegas as developed also here at LMU Munich, the NSWs are better able to deal with the harsh conditions in the vicinity of the LHC particle beam and improve the reconstruction of muons, the heavier siblings of the electrons.

"The particular challenge", says Biebel, "is to be able to design and build Micromegas detectors in sizes of two to three square meters that are capable of accurately measuring the tracks of thousands of particles down to a tenth of a millimeter." To achieve this resolution, the large detector modules weighing up to 80 kilograms must be manufactured and installed to a precision of a few hundredths of a millimeter.

After the first Micromegas modules already delivered to CERN, Biebel and his group will produce a total of 32 units for the NSWs in the coming months, take part in the installation onto the already existing support structures at CERN (see picture) and thereby make a decisive contribution to the future of the ATLAS experiment.

For more information on the activities of the ATLAS collaboration during the Long Shutdown 2, see a recent article in CERN Courier and on the ATLAS Collaboration website.

In addition to the application in particle physics at the ATLAS experiment, Micromegas detectors also have an interesting range of applications in other areas. There exists already a fruitful collaboration with the Laboratory for Detector Development at the Chair of Medical Physics at LMU Munich.

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