Next-Generation Particle Physics

McClellan Nuclear Research Center

The Large Hadron Collider — the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator — smashes particles together at energies up to 14 trillion electron volts. Maxwell Chertok, professor of physics, and other UC Davis researchers, help design instruments that can withstand the LHC’s extreme conditions. 

To find a material that would be able to withstand the radiation environment of the collider, Chertok and his colleagues tested mechanical structures made from carbon foam with thermally conductive epoxy at the McClellan Nuclear Research Center in Sacramento.

The material was placed in the reactor’s core, and subjected to a high radiation field (10^14 neutrons) comparable to ten years of radiation damage at the Large Hadron Collider. After radiation exposure, the samples were tested for thermal conductivity and tensile strength. Although more studies are planned, they found that radiation damage testing with neutrons shows the epoxy-carbon foam interface is robust. The results of the study were published in Journal of Instrumentation.

The carbon foam is one of many materials that could be used in the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment, known as CMS, at the Large Hadron Collider. The CMS detector acts like a giant digital camera, recording and being exposed to tremendous radiation damage from trillions of proton collisions per year as it measures Higgs bosons and searches for other exotic particles. Because of this long-term damage, an upgrade for the detector is being developed.

UC Davis is one of more than 200 institutions in 40 countries that are part of the CMS experiment. The CMS scientists are searching for extra dimensions and particles that could make up dark matter.

Read more about recent experiments at McClellan Nuclear Research Center.

— Adapted from a story by Lisa Howard, UC Davis Office of Research