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.
South Pole tuning in on "Skyradio"
The Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) is one of the future South Pole neutrino observatories focusing on the detection of neutrinos with energies beyond 10^17 eV. It utilizes radio waves, emitted from neutrino induced cascades in the South Pole ice sheet, to detect neutrino interactions. The detector is currently in the construction phase as is shown in the picture below. A grid of 37 antenna clusters, spaced by 2 km, is planned to be deployed in the South Pole ice at a depth of 200 m. By this, the full ARA detector will cover an instrumented area of about 100 km^2 and represent a state of the art detector for cosmic neutrinos in the energy range between 10^17 eV and 10^19 eV.
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!
The IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole is the world's largest neutrino telescope, completed in 2011 and taking data since 2005!
The detector is composed of 80 strings of 60 sensors deployed in the Antarctic glacier, between 1500 and 2500 m of depth. As its name suggests, IceCube covers an instrumented volume of one cubic kilometer. The DeepCore extension of IceCube is composed of 6 additional string in the center of the IceCube array, where the puriest ice can be found. At the surface, the IceTop air shower array equiped each IceCube string with 2 pairs of sensors in an ice tank of 3 square-meter.
IceCube results challenge current understanding of Gamma Ray Bursts
Favoured candidates for the emission of Ultra High-Energy Cosmic Rays are Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB), both spectacular emitters of high-energy gamma rays arising from particle acceleration in relativistic jets. However, the composition of the particles involved in these processes as well as the acceleration mechanism are very uncertain. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole is honing in on how the most energetic cosmic rays might be produced. IceCube is performing a search for cosmic high-energy neutrinos, which are believed to accompany cosmic ray production, and as such explores the possible sources for cosmic ray production. In a paper published in the 2012 April 19 issue of the journal Nature (Volume 484, Number 7394), the IceCube collaboration describes a search for neutrino emission related to 300 gamma ray bursts observed between May 2008 and April 2010 by the SWIFT and Fermi satellites. Surprisingly, no related neutrino events were found - a result that contradicts 15 years of predictions and challenges most of the leading models for the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays, as shown in the figure.
Here you see the installation of the the Compact Muon Solenoid forward tracker,
which was partly built at the IIHE. The IIHE contributed to the construction of the over 200 square meter silicon tracker, the most ambitious particle tracking detector every built. Contributions were made to the assembly of detectors and their support structures, and the assembly of the detectors on a wheel such as you can see here. The tracker was installed inside the Compact Muon Solenoid detector in December 2007.
Astroparticle Physics revolves around phenomena that involve (astro)physics under the most extreme conditions.
Cosmic explosions, involving black holes with masses a billion times greater than the mass of the Sun, accelerate particles to velocities close to the speed of light and display a variety of relativistic effects. The produced high-energy particles may be detected on Earth and as such can provide us insight in the physical processes underlying these cataclysmic events. Having no electrical charge and interacting only weakly with matter, neutrinos are special astronomical messengers. Only they can carry information from violent cosmological events at the edge of the observable universe directly towards the Earth. 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.
IIHE at the ICRC!
The 34th International Cosmic-Ray Conference took place in The Hague, The Netherlands from July 30 to August 6, 2015. More than 800 physicists attended the conference to discuss the latest progress in cosmic-ray and solar physics. Furthermore, recent developments in gamma-ray and neutrino astronomy as well as the hunt for dark matter were covered. The IIHE was clearly represented with 8 posters and 3 talks. Our members presented their results on the Earth WIMP (Weakly Interactive Massive Particles) searches, a possible dark matter candidate, and on multiple analyses that aim to find the sources of neutrinos emission with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. We focus our attention on: sources with spatial extension in the sky (from 1° to 5°), Gamma-Ray Bursts - extremely energetic explosion possibly associated with the death of a star, Dust Obscured Blazars - a special type of galaxies - and solar flares. The Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) as well as a totally new way to observe high energy neutrinos using radar detection were the subject of two talks! Also, two of our new members presented their previous work on the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) and the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS). The 35th ICRC will take place in Busan, South Korea, where we hope the IIHE will be even better represented!
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.
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