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Defining technology for tomorrow’s experiments

More than 450 physicists and engineers took part in the first workshop to define CERN’s experimental programme from 2020 onwards


Defining technology for tomorrow’s experiments

Physicists and engineers have begun to define CERN’s R&D programme on new experiment technologies from 2020 onwards. (Image: CERN)

The scale and technological sophistication of the detectors at the LHC experiments is almost incomprehensible. In addition to several subdetector systems, they contain millions of detecting elements and support a research programme for an international community of thousands of scientists. The volume of data that will be produced during the high-luminosity upgrade of the LHC (HL-LHC) and by future colliders calls for even more sophisticated technologies.

In November 2017, CERN launched a process to define its R&D programme on new experiment technologies from 2020 onwards. The programme covers detector upgrades beyond HL-LHC and includes concepts developed for the Compact Linear Collider (CLIC) and the Future Circular Collider (FCC) study. The first workshop took place at CERN on 16 March and more than 450 physicists and engineers, about half of whom are visiting scientists hosted by the laboratory, took part.

Beyond the HL-LHC, experiments may evolve in different directions. Therefore, the aim is to launch an R&D programme that concentrates on advancing key technologies rather than developing specialised applications. Developments in detectors for high-energy physics also benefit many other sectors, from healthcare and medical imaging to industry and quality monitoring, so it is timely to think how industry can be involved in joint R&D efforts.

Detector improvements envisioned for the 2020s and beyond include better electronic readout, modelling and simulation tools, and better computational techniques for reconstructing the recorded information. Increased timing accuracy to mitigate event pile-up in very high-luminosity environments will almost certainly impact the development of all classes of detectors, whether silicon, gas or photodetectors. The challenges of the HL-LHC and future colliders also place tough requirements on readout electronics and fast data links, while advances in data processing and storage are equally important.

Participants also discussed the special facilities and infrastructures needed to test chips under realistic conditions – presenting an impressive number of options on advanced materials, design tools and production technologies, which could change how detectors are built and boost their performance. R&D into magnet design for future colliders also demands progress in superconducting materials and cables to meet strict strength and cost requirements.

The talks at the March workshop covered a variety of topics reflecting CERN’s diversity and strong collaboration with commercial and academic partners worldwide. They demonstrated that new concepts, manufacturing tools and materials, combined with the development of simulation tools and software, can open a new era in detector technologies.

A second workshop will take place this autumn to review progress.


This article is based on an article published in the May issue of the CERN Courier.