Recent years have seen the study of the Higgs boson progress from the discovery age to the measurement age. Among the latest studies of the properties of this unique particle by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations are measurements that shed further light on its interaction with top quarks – which, as the heaviest elementary particle, have the strongest interactions with the Higgs boson. In addition to allowing a determination of the strength of the top-Higgs interaction, the analyses open a new window on charge-parity (CP) violation.
Discovered unexpectedly more than 50 years ago, CP violation reveals a fundamental asymmetry in nature that causes rare differences in the rates of processes involving matter particles and their antimatter counterparts, and is therefore thought to be an essential ingredient to explaining the observed abundance of matter over antimatter in the universe. While the Standard Model of particle physics can explain CP violation, the amount of CP violation observed so far in experiments – recently in the behaviour of charm quarks by the LHCb collaboration – is too small to account for the cosmological matter–antimatter imbalance. Searching for new sources of CP violation is thus of great interest to physicists.
In their recent studies, the CMS and ATLAS teams independently performed a direct test of the properties of the top–Higgs interaction. The studies are based on the full dataset of Run 2 of the LHC, which allowed for more precise measurements and analyses of the collision events where the Higgs boson is produced in association with one or two top quarks before decaying into two photons. The detection of this extremely rare association, which was first observed by the two collaborations in 2018, required the full capacities of the detectors and analysis techniques.
As predicted by the Standard Model, no signs of CP violation were found in the top–Higgs interaction by either experiment. The top–Higgs production rate, a measure of the strength of the interaction between the particles, was also found by both experiments to be in line with previous results and consistent with the Standard Model predictions.
Following these first investigations of CP violation in the top–Higgs interaction, ATLAS and CMS physicists plan to study other Higgs-boson decay channels as part of the decades-long search for the origin of the universe’s missing antimatter.