IIT-Madras joins CERN experiment


A view of the Large Hadron Collider tunnel at the Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin, near Geneva.

A view of the Large Hadron Collider tunnel at the Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin, near Geneva.

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, which is part of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, is famous for its role in the discovery of the Higgs Boson a.k.a the god particle. It is expected to start collecting data once again around March 2015. But this time, it will include another member from our environs — IIT-Madras.

IIT-Madras has been accepted as a full member of the collaboration and is looking forward to make best use of the opportunity. Now, PhD students from the physics department will get to work in the collider; undergraduate students can do short summer projects at CMS; members of physics, computer science and electrical engineering departments at IIT-M can work on data analysis, grid computing and high-end detector building related to the experiment. “Being connected to CERN can give many more students a taste of the power of fundamental research,” says Prafulla Kumar Behera of the physics department of IIT-Madras, pointing out that this is the first IIT and, in fact, the first institute from the southern States to have become a full member of the CMS. It is to be noted that Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre have long been members, as also Delhi and Panjab Universities.

The key areas where they hope to work is in data analysis and upgrading of the detector, according to Dr. Behera, who also feels that the experience of building up the silicon detector will come in useful in developing indigenous technology in medical (imaging) science and R&D in general. At present, the CMS experiment has gone up to 8 teraelectronvolts energy (TeV) and is geared to touch 14 TeV. This will involve having to upgrade the detector to handle the radiation and increased rate of data taking, which is where the group expects to be able to contribute.

Broadly speaking, the questions the experiment will probe are: whether the Higgs boson will undergo a decay in B quarks; whether there exist charged versions of the Higgs particle, which would mean physicists need to look beyond the standard model; whether dark matter can be produced by collision experiments and so on.


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