Intensity Frontier

Intensity Frontier: More Information

Experiments at the Intensity Frontier aim to transform our understanding of the cosmos by using powerful particle accelerators and ultra-sensitive detectors to:

1. Measure the properties of neutrinos.

Neutrinos are the most abundant known particle in the universe, but also the least understood. They are extremely light, being less than one millionth of the mass of an electron, and interact with matter so weakly that most neutrinos would pass through a 6 trillion mile long block of lead unscathed. Since neutrinos are also electrically neutral, they are not influenced by electric or magnetic fields. These properties make individual neutrinos hard to detect, so experiments that aim to study them require an extremely intense neutrino source.

Three “flavors” of neutrinos have been observed so far, one associated with each of the three charged leptons (electron, muon, and tau), and each flavor of neutrino will only interact with its associated partner. However, while a neutrino may begin its life as one flavor, it may transform into a different flavor as it travels to its destination through a phenomenon called neutrino oscillation. There is a possibility that neutrinos and antineutrinos behave differently as they go through this transformation, which may be a factor in explaining the current matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe.

The Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) aims to precisely measure the parameters of neutrino oscillation and make the definitive measurement of any difference between matter and antimatter neutrinos. To achieve this goal, physicists plan to send an intense beam of neutrinos on an 800 mile (1,300 km) trip under three states from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, in Batavia, Illinois, to a large detector in the Homestake Mine deep beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota. Though LBNE promises an exciting future for neutrino studies in the years ahead, a suite of other experiments that complement the science behind and develop the technology for LBNE are already underway.

For more information about some of the experiments currently supported by HEP click on the following links:

2. Precisely measure the properties of quarks and charged leptons and search for extremely rare particle interactions.

Precision measurements and rare interaction searches exploit the quantum nature of particles to allow experiments to probe for new particles or forces that are not part of the Standard Model. For instance, a wide variety of possibilities for new physics would affect the strength of the intrinsic magnet inside of a muon, the heavy cousin of an electron. The Muon g-2 experiment aims to measure the strength of the muon’s magnet to 140 parts per billion, equivalent to measuring the length of a football field to a tenth of the width of a human hair.  The current best measurement of this muon property shows a slight discrepancy with the prediction from the Standard Model, and a higher-precision measurement could yield quantifiable proof of new particles or forces that interact with matter.

The Muon-to-electron conversion experiment aims to exploit an interaction where the quantum possibilities nearly—but don’t completely—cancel each other out. In the Standard Model, direct conversion of a muon to an electron is highly suppressed, but new particles or forces could ruin the cancellation and significantly enhance the interaction rate. The key to this experiment is combining a clean and intense source of muons with an extremely sensitive detector. Fifty billion muons will be created every second for two years and sent snaking through three superconducting solenoid magnets on their way to the detector, which will aim to notice perhaps a single rare conversion in every million-trillion events.

The Belle II detector, which will be installed at the intense electron-positron collider SuperKEKB, aims to perform extensive studies of rare decays, searches for exotic particles and precision measurements that could shed new light on the matter-antimatter imbalance in the universe while exploring for new particles and forces. The properties of quarks will be studied in detail, especially as they pair up to form B mesons and D mesons, which are known to show a slight preference for decaying to matter over antimatter. Even if new exotic particles are not seen directly, precision measurements at Belle II may lead to evidence for new particles that are involved in quark interactions.

For more information about some of the experiments currently supported by HEP click on the following links:

Currently running experiments:

Last modified: 1/17/2014 12:52:31 PM