Posted on 19/10/2017
ATLAS 25: Celebrating 25 years of ATLAS history
The milestone of 10 000 000 000 000 000, or ten million billion collisions by the Large Hadron Collider, since the beginning of data-taking in 2010, was reached at CERN in Switzerland earlier in September, just in time to celebrate the 25th birthday of ATLAS.
On Thursday 12 October 2017, the ATLAS collaboration held a special celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of their collaboration. The celebration took place in Bratislava, Slovakia, where members of the collaboration had gathered as part of their yearly collaboration get-together outside of CERN to discuss all aspects of the ATLAS detector: from detector performance and operations to physics results making use of the data collected by the detector.
Royal Holloway's Centre for Particle Physics has been a member of the ATLAS collaboration from the very beginning, being one of the institutions who signed the Letter of Intent of the newly formed collaboration on 1 October 1992. At the time, the academic staff leading this activity was Professor John Strong, who joined Royal Holloway from Westfield College in 1985. Professor Strong specialised in electronics and quickly established the group as a key contributor to the design and development of the ATLAS detector’s data acquisition system, responsible for bringing the electrical signals from about 100 million detector channels all the way to permanent disk storage. He recruited Barry Green, an electronics engineer, who is the longest-serving member of staff of the Centre for Particle Physics. Pictured below, Mr Green can be seen holding the electronic cards that he was working on back in 1992, when the ATLAS detector was being designed. The Royal Holloway group went on to not only produce critical parts of the data acquisition hardware, but also to become a key contributor to the Trigger system of the detector. This system is responsible for choosing in a fraction of a second (using both hardware and software) the few hundreds of events per second that ATLAS should record, out of the 40 million collisions per second that the LHC produces.
Over the last 25 years, the research group (now composed of about 20 members of staff including PhD students) has also been involved in many of the exciting physics results that have come out of the data collected by ATLAS. A highlight has been the direct involvement of the group in the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, which is a particle responsible for all particles to acquire their mass. This discovery led to the Physics Nobel Prize in 2013 being awarded to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert. The group is currently analysing ATLAS data in topics as diverse as searching for high-mass exotic particles, making precision measurements involving the most massive particle, the top quark, as well as continuing to study the properties of the Higgs boson.
Dr Veronique Boisvert, current leader of Royal Holloway's ATLAS group, said,
“It is very exciting for our group to have been involved in the design, construction and operations of the biggest physics detector ever built and to be using this data to probe the exciting mysteries of particle physics. We are also currently actively engaged in the work focused on the upgrades that are planned for the detector, to be carried out first in 2019-2020. The hope is that the upgraded detector will then be taking data all the way until the year 2037 or so, a 45-year life span in total! This will certainly be a longevity record for an accelerator as complex as the LHC and for a detector like ATLAS and is a testament to the engineers and physicists involved in those projects, including from the UK.”