detector technology

What is dark matter made of? Scientists at Fermilab are using ultrasensitive devices to look for the elusive particles that would explain the nature of dark matter. In this 3-minute video, physicist Javier Tiffenberg explains how a new detection technology, based on sensors known as skipper charge-coupled devices, or CCDs, provides a new way of looking for dark matter particles.

The skipper CCD instrument at the heart of scientist Javier Tiffenberg’s research shows promise for dark matter, neutrino detection and more. For the development of this forefront detector, Tiffenberg has won this year’s Universities Research Association Early Carer Award.

For a week spanning the months of July and August, scientists from around the world virtually gathered to attend the prestigious biennial ICHEP conference. At ICHEP, some of the most exciting physics results of the year are unveiled. CMS scientists from Fermilab and the LHC Physics Center were well-represented at the conference.

Scientists have begun operating the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, to create a 3-D map of over 30 million galaxies and quasars that will help them understand the nature of dark energy. The new instrument is the most advanced of its kind, with 5,000 robotic positioners that will enable scientists to gather more than 20 times more data than previous surveys. Researchers at Fermilab helped develop the software that will direct these positioners to focus on galaxies several billion light-years away and are currently in the process of fine-tuning the programs used before the last round of testing later this year.

At the core of the mammoth detector assemblies and snugly surrounding the beam pipes are arrays of silicon sensors, which provide detailed patterns of interactions to micron-level precision, with subnanosecond timing and low mass. Research and development to improve the characteristics and develop better silicon detectors with the use of new technologies continue as we upgrade the existing detectors for better performance and develop designs for experiments at future generations of accelerators.

Anna Pla-Dalmau is a prolific inventor at Fermilab, with several patents to her name. These patents relate to extruded plastic scintillator, which is used in particle detectors. She has explored the extrusion of polystyrene pellets with dopants to yield high-quality scintillator. The extrusion line built at Fermilab continues to produce the material for research institutions around the world.

In April Fermilab initiated the New Initiatives, an annual, competitive call for proposals to attract new members and ideas to the detector R&D community at the lab. We are happy to announce the three New Initiatives awards for 2020. The principal investigators for all three selected proposals are new additions to Fermilab’s detector R&D team.