IIHE people





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.


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 an event recorded by IceCube in January 2008, when the detector was still in construction!

At that time, 22 strings were already taking data and 18 other strings were freshly deployed. Every colored bubble indicates the detection of one or more Cerenkov photons created by the cross of a charged particle by one of the sensors deployed in the ice. The size of the circles reflects the intensity of the signal. The color indicates the arrival time from red (early) to blue (late). These informations combined with the geometry of the detector allow first guess reconstructions of the initial track.


IIHE students at the South Pole

Falling off the earth is a serious risk at the South Pole. Down there, at the very end of the world, everything is different.. 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.


Observation of a New Particle with a Mass of 125 GeV

In a joint seminarar at CERN and the “ICHEP 2012” conference in Melbourne, researchers of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) presented their preliminary results on the search for the standard model (SM) Brout-Englert-Higgs boson in their data recorded up to June 2012. CMS observes an excess of events at a mass of approximately 125 GeV with a statistical significance of five standard deviations (5 sigma) above background expectations. The probability of the background alone fluctuating up by this amount or more is about one in three million. The evidence is strongest in the two final states with the best mass resolution: first the two-photon final state and second the final state with two pairs of charged leptons (electrons or muons). We interpret this to be due to the production of a previously unobserved particle with a mass of around 125 GeV.


First results from a realistic modeling of radio emission by particle cascades in ice

In the previous decade several new experiments (ANITA, NuMoon, ARA, ARIANNA) were proposed to detect high energy (>EeV) neutrino induced particle cascades in dense media such as ice, salt, and moon rock. At the highest energies, these neutrino's are extremely rare and a large detector volume is needed to detect them. Due to the long attenuation length, the detection of the produced radio signals is the most promising tool to search for these rare events. In light of these new experimental efforts, the EVA-code, originally constructed to model radio emission from cosmic-ray-induced air showers, is under development to model radio emission from particle cascades in the South-Pole ice. The ice geometry is included into the code, as well as a parameterized model for the particle cascade. Furthermore, the original EVA-code already incorporated Cherenkov effects in the emission for radio signals moving on curved paths due to a density gradient in the medium. The figure below shows a preliminary result for the electric field as seen by an observer positioned at the ice-air interface. The particle cascade starts at 330 meters depth traveling approximately 10 meters straight upward in the ice until it dies out. The pulses as seen by observers at different lateral distances ranging from 10 m to 300 m are shown. It is seen that the pulse becomes sharper moving outward toward the Cherenkov cone at a lateral distance of approximately 330 meters."


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!


Dark matter searches with IceCube

According to the most recent observations and based on the standard model of cosmology, dark matter makes up 26.8% of the energy density in our Universe The argument that yet to be detected Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) make up the dark matter is compelling. Over time, WIMPs may accumulate in the center of the Sun and Earth, and annihilate with each other. The decay products may vary, and most of them will interact and decay in the massive body. If neutrinos are created from those secondaries, they will escape and provide a neutrino flux. This neutrino flux could be measured by the IceCube Neutrino Detector. Data taken by AMANDA and IceCube have been analysed at the IIHE to search for WIMPs in the centre of the Sun and Earth; no significant excess above background was observed so far.


The needle in the haystack

Physicists working in the CMS experiment regularly have to spend their time searching for a needle in a haystack. In other words we look for the rarest of rare collisions that represent very unlikely physics processes. An example of work done at the IIHE is the search for the production of four top quarks (the needle) in the huge dataset recorded by CMS in 2012 (the haystack). Our results put an extremely tight limit on the production of four top quarks, indeed the tightest limit at the LHC so far. As four top quarks are also produced in many new theories of physics such as supersymmetry, this limit can tell us a lot about the validity of these theories.

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