Centre for Cosmology, Particle Physics and Phenomenology
at Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgique
The UCL Centre for Cosmology, Particle Physics and Phenomenology (CP3) hosts research on particle detectors, high energy particle physics, phenomenology, theory of the fundamental interactions and cosmology, equally strongly on the experimental and theoretical fronts. The aim of the Centre is to bring together researchers in these scientific fields and to encourage collaboration.
Following a long tradition of UCL involvement in experiments on hadronic physics, electroweak interactions and neutrino physics performed since the end of the 60's at the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, Geneva) laboratory as well as at other European accelerator laboratories, the CP3 experimental group holds a strong expertise in instrumentation, software and data analysis techniques. Presently the efforts of the group focus on three major activities.
The first activity concerns the operation and exploitation of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) detector at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the proton-proton collider of CERN that delivered its first collisions in Autumn 2009. More specifically, CP3 contributions are in the areas of instrumentation, software, data analysis and phenomenological studies. CP3 members have contributed to the construction, technical qualification and commissioning of one of the most important CMS detector components, the inner-tracker micro-strip silicon detectors. UCL hosts one of the computing centers of the World LHC Computing GRID, the world-wide computing infrastructure that allows the large data volume produced by CMS to be processed and analysed. The CP3 experimental group is currently active in CMS cosmic and collision data analysis as well as software development. Current physics data analyses take place within three main areas: forward physics, top quark physics and searches for signals of physics beyond the standard model.
A second focus activity is related to novel and complementary detectors still at the design stage, to be installed at the LHC, with the aim to gain access to hitherto unexplored physics channels in high energy photon-photon collisions. This highly original project has required developing a lot of new tools and solutions, both for the detector systems and software and data analysis environment. It resulted also in launching at the UCL developments of state-of-art ultra-fast picosecond resolution detection techniques and associated electronics. The necessary technological and phenomenological studies have been initially pursued at the HERA electron-proton collider at the DESY Laboratory (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchroton, Hamburg). It includes also studies of application of coherent radiation from the high energy electron beams.
The third activity concerns the construction, commissioning and explotation of the NA62 experiment at CERN. NA62 is a fixed target experiment which main objective is the measurement of the rare decay K+ -> pi+ v vbar, with an expected branching ratio in the Standard Model of 10^-11. Any deviation from this expectation will be a hint of New Physics. Besides this main objective, both the detector and the beam are fully adapted to the study of radiative kaon decays that can provide information about direct CP violation and QCD-QED interplay.
Theoretical research in the phenomenology of the elementary particles and their fundamental interactions, their unification, and the theoretical and mathematical problems that these issues raise, has also a strong tradition at UCL. These activities cover a wide range of fields in fundamental physics, from high energy particle physics to our Universe's history, from CP-violation in weak decays to tests of general relativity at cosmological scales. They also draw heavily on rich and fascinating fields in theoretical physics and mathematics.
In relation to these focus activities there also exist a host of parallel and complementary research programmes often themselves quite demanding, with obvious reciprocal benefits. The technical and instrumental know-how acquired through the major projects is also used in other fields. For instance the Center for Space Radiation (CSR) applies particle physics competences and techniques towards the study of the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts, in collaboration with the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy. R&D in new generation of silicon detectors and their related readout electronics are also pursued, some in collaboration with material science engineers of the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University. One may also mention involvement in design studies towards some accelerators of the future, such as neutrino and muon factories, a concept taking shape in a variety of large international laboratories.
The students, PhD students, post-doctoral researchers often from abroad, and members of the Institute of Mathematics and Physics thus find a wide and rich range of activities related to particle and high energy physics, within which their scientific creativity and imagination find fertile ground to grow and happily blossom, thus contributing to this great intellectual and scientific human adventure which aims to decipher the intelligence that governs the construction of our Universe.
Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988), Physics Nobel Prize 1965