IIHE people





IIHE - Interuniversity Institute for High Energies (ULB-VUB)

The IIHE was created in 1972 at the initiative of the academic authorities of both the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Its main topic of research is the physics of elementary particles.
The present research programme is based on the extensive use of the high energy particle accelerators and experimental facilities at CERN (Switzerland) and DESY (Germany) as well as on non-accelerator experiments at the South Pole.
The main goal of this experiments is the study of the strong, electromagnetic and weak interactions of the most elementary building blocks of matter. All these experiments are performed in the framework of large international collaborations and have led to important R&D activities and/or applications concerning particle detectors and computing and networking systems.
Research at the IIHE is mainly funded by Belgian national and regional agencies, in particular the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) en het Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) and by both universities through their Research Councils.
The IIHE includes 19 members of the permanent scientific staff, 20 postdocs and guests, 31 doctoral students, 8 masters students, and 15 engineering, computing and administrative professionals.


Looking in usually ignored collisions for physics beyond the Standard Model

It is commonly agreed that the standard model is not the ultimate theory and breaks down at higher energies. One of its most famous extensions is called supersymmetry or SUSY. Even though the CERN LHC data is already extensively examined for signatures predicted by this theory, no evidence has been found. However, supersymmetric models in which particles would have large lifetime (so would seem not to come from the collision point), have been mostly overlooked until now. IIHE physicists have performed a search that focuses on checking the LHC data for evidence of such a model. The picture depicts the transverse view of the CMS interaction point, showing a typical event from one of the possible signal with long life time. The definition of the leptons' impact parameter, d0, which is largely correlated with to the particle lifetime, is shown by the arrows.


Shown here is a result of the 2012 LHC run at the Compact Muon Solenoid,

studying the invariant mass of electron pairs produced at the Large Hadron Collider. Shown is the data, as black dots, and the simulation predicting what we should expect according to the particle physics Standard Model (coloured bands). The IIHE is actively involved in the study of this kind of collisions, in collaboration with other groups of the CMS experiment. The data points agree very well with the predictions from the Standard Model, which means that up to now no new physics beyond the Standard Model could be observed that produces electron pairs. This could change when the LHC runs at a higher collision energy in 2015 and the high mass region to the right of the spectrum can be explored. New physics could show up as a peak in the high mass region of the spectrum, and could look like a small version of the peak of the Z boson that can be seen at a mass of about 90 GeV.


IceCube results challenge current understanding of Gamma Ray Bursts

Favoured candidates for the emission of Ultra High-Energy Cosmic Rays are Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB), both spectacular emitters of high-energy gamma rays arising from particle acceleration in relativistic jets. However, the composition of the particles involved in these processes as well as the acceleration mechanism are very uncertain. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole is honing in on how the most energetic cosmic rays might be produced. IceCube is performing a search for cosmic high-energy neutrinos, which are believed to accompany cosmic ray production, and as such explores the possible sources for cosmic ray production. In a paper published in the 2012 April 19 issue of the journal Nature (Volume 484, Number 7394), the IceCube collaboration describes a search for neutrino emission related to 300 gamma ray bursts observed between May 2008 and April 2010 by the SWIFT and Fermi satellites. Surprisingly, no related neutrino events were found - a result that contradicts 15 years of predictions and challenges most of the leading models for the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays, as shown in the figure.


Astroparticle Physics revolves around phenomena that involve (astro)physics under the most extreme conditions.

Cosmic explosions, involving black holes with masses a billion times greater than the mass of the Sun, accelerate particles to velocities close to the speed of light and display a variety of relativistic effects. The produced high-energy particles may be detected on Earth and as such can provide us insight in the physical processes underlying these cataclysmic events. Having no electrical charge and interacting only weakly with matter, neutrinos are special astronomical messengers. Only they can carry information from violent cosmological events at the edge of the observable universe directly towards the Earth. At the Inter-university Institute for High Energies (IIHE) in Brussels we are involved in a world wide effort to search for high-energy neutrinos originating from cosmic phenomena. For this we use the IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole, the world's largest neutrino telescope which is now completed and taking data.


Here you see an event recorded by IceCube in January 2008, when the detector was still in construction!

At that time, 22 strings were already taking data and 18 other strings were freshly deployed. Every colored bubble indicates the detection of one or more Cerenkov photons created by the cross of a charged particle by one of the sensors deployed in the ice. The size of the circles reflects the intensity of the signal. The color indicates the arrival time from red (early) to blue (late). These informations combined with the geometry of the detector allow first guess reconstructions of the initial track.


The needle in the haystack

Physicists working in the CMS experiment regularly have to spend their time searching for a needle in a haystack. In other words we look for the rarest of rare collisions that represent very unlikely physics processes. An example of work done at the IIHE is the search for the production of four top quarks (the needle) in the huge dataset recorded by CMS in 2012 (the haystack). Our results put an extremely tight limit on the production of four top quarks, indeed the tightest limit at the LHC so far. As four top quarks are also produced in many new theories of physics such as supersymmetry, this limit can tell us a lot about the validity of these theories.


Candidate top quark +W boson collision event at CERN

Shown is a candidate collision event from the 2010 LHC run that was selected in the search for one top quark associated with a W boson at the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at CERN. IIHE scientists are leading the analysis effort in the detailed study of these kind of collisions. Understanding single top production is relevant both for the detailed understanding of the physics of top quark production but also in the context of the Standard Model Quantum Chromodynamics in general as this process is special because of the production of a single heavy quark in association with a gauge boson. This event topology is very similar to that expected for new physics or the elusive Higgs boson, for which this kind of events are a background.


Dark matter searches with IceCube

According to the most recent observations and based on the standard model of cosmology, dark matter makes up 26.8% of the energy density in our Universe The argument that yet to be detected Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) make up the dark matter is compelling. Over time, WIMPs may accumulate in the center of the Sun and Earth, and annihilate with each other. The decay products may vary, and most of them will interact and decay in the massive body. If neutrinos are created from those secondaries, they will escape and provide a neutrino flux. This neutrino flux could be measured by the IceCube Neutrino Detector. Data taken by AMANDA and IceCube have been analysed at the IIHE to search for WIMPs in the centre of the Sun and Earth; no significant excess above background was observed so far.

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