University of Malta

Particle Detector and Accelerator Research Group
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Welcome to the Particle Detector and Accelerator Research Group

Tens of thousands of particle accelerators are used around the world for a variety of applications, ranging from medical treatment for oncological purposes to synchrotron light sources to study the structure of organic molecules. The largest accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), are used to probe the fundamental sub-atomic particles which govern our Universe.

There are a number of technological challenges associated with the design, construction and operation of particle accelerators which give rise to interesting opportunities for R&D. The LHC is a 27-km long circular accelerator through which particle beams less than a millimetre thick and travelling at almost the speed of light need to be steered with the precision of a few micrometers. Thousands of beam diagnostics and instrumentation devices are installed to monitor the beam, as well as several machine protection systems which need to function with maximum reliability in the event of catastrophic beam loss, preventing the equivalent of almost 80 kg of TNT from impacting the accelerator.

The LHC delivers particle collisions to the experiments every 25 nanoseconds. The four major LHC experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb) study different properties of particles resulting from these collisions. They are located in caverns 100 m underground, weigh up to 10,000 tonnes and consist of thousands of kilometers of electric cables which allow data to be read from layers of detectors at rates of several Terabytes per second. The data are then distributed to the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid for post-processing and analysis.

The Particle Detector and Accelerator Research Group (PDARG) was set up following an initiative from a number of academics across several departments from the Faculty of ICT and the Faculty of Science. Collaborations with other departments and faculties within the university are welcomed.

The members of the group are actively involved in a number of areas with the LHC and the ALICE experiment, which aims to recreate quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter thought to exist up to a few milliseconds after the Big Bang, reaching temperatures of 5 trillion degrees Kelvin. The ALICE experiment is composed of over 1300 scientists from 110 institutes around the world. The areas of collaboration include:

  • data acquisition electronics design (digital and analog)
  • accelerator controls
  • high-performance and distributed computing
  • signal and image processing
  • pattern recognition.

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