THE University of Glasgow has unveiled a new particle physics laboratory today which will help develop the next generation of technology which found found evidence of the existence of the highly-elusive Higgs Boson particle.
The £370,000 “GLADD lab” will allow scientists to continue developing their work assisting the CERN lab in Switzerland as well as having commercial applications such as medical imaging and airport security.
GLADD (Glasgow Laboratory for Advanced Detector Development), based in the Kelvin Building, will be used by particle physicists who worked for more than 20 years in the development and construction of the semiconductor trackers in ATLAS, one of the detectors at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva.
The new “clean-room” laboratory - where air quality temperature and humidity are highly regulated to protect sensitive equipment from contamination - contains a suite of cutting-edge equipment including an ultrasonic fine pitch wire bonder to fabricate interconnects in electronic chips and a probe station to investigate the functionality of improved sensor designs.
Only two other universities worldwide – the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Bonn - currently have access to the same probe technology.
The team will use a small “production line” to build the silicon-based detector systems at the heart of the ATLAS experiment over the next three years. They will then transport them to CERN and integrate them into the project, a task which will take a couple of years.
ATLAS is one of two general-purpose detectors at the LHC. Its purpose is to investigate a wide range of physics, including the extra dimensions and particles that could make up dark matter and record sets of measurements on the particles created in collisions - their paths, energies, and their identities.
Dr Craig Buttar, head of the university’s ATLAS research group: “The ATLAS project involved thousands of scientists from across the world working together to solve some extremely difficult scientific and technical problems.
“We’re very proud of the work we did to help build ATLAS but the demands of the physics challenges and the ever-improving nature of technology means that the system must and can be improved. We’re pleased to be playing a leading role in upgrading the system along with partners in the UK and abroad.
“GLADD represents a significant investment in particle physics by the University. The technology and expertise available in the laboratory will benefit not only ATLAS but also creates new opportunities for commercial partnerships in the fields of sensor development and imaging. The technology we’re helping to develop has novel applications in medicine, where it can be used to improve x-rays diagnostics, and in national security, where it can enable better detection of radioactive materials.”
Dr Richard Bates, senior research fellow in the university’s school of physics and astronomy, said that much of the credit for the opening of the laboratory was due to the university’s Professor Ken Smith who identified the “symbiotic” relationship between commercial projects and particle physics.
“I think if you look at particle physics groups around the world we’re quite exceptional. We managed to get income grants from different sources which helped with fundamental science.
“Years ago we were a bit laughed at when we carried out work such as research on X-ray imaging dentistry for a start-up company based in Sweden. But Professor Smith realised the techniques could be adapted and used in other areas of science.”
Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP, minister for science, said: “With Professor Peter Higgs having conducted much of his research from Edinburgh and much of the technology used developed in Glasgow, Scotland’s rich history of science and innovation is intrinsically linked with the work of CERN. I am delighted to see that the University of Glasgow are striving to stay one step ahead and take scientific discovery into practical applications. These are exciting times for science in Scotland.”
Funding for GLADD was provided by the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance comprising the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, St. Andrews, Strathclyde and West of Scotland.