Florida Tech physics department keeps up with the latest technology as the Muon Tomography Station is utilized for detecting particles no bigger than an electron.
The group research is conducted by Marcus Holmann, a physics professor who also works with CERN over online meetings.
CERN is the European Council for Nuclear Research – in French it translates to “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire” – in which the acronym was devised.
CERN is the one the world’s most renown centers of scientific research and specialize with nuclear reactions, studying the behavior of individual particles and atoms.
The organization began in 2008, the same time the studies for Holmann and Florida Tech had been approved.
The similar studies here at Florida Tech examine the nuclear behavior of muons coming from high energy activity from elements such as uranium.
A muon is an unstable subatomic particle of the same class as an electron, but with a mass around 200 times greater.
Muons make up much of the cosmic radiation reaching the earth’s surface.
The building blocks of life and quantum theory are intertwined by understanding the fundamental behavior of the elements of life at their smallest component, we can better understand and predict the world around us and help us figure out relationships between particles and essentially interpret the universe.
The building blocks are defined in what’s called: The Standard Model of Particle Physics.
The Muon tomography station can detect particles of the same size as the Standard Model defines, and can read the spin and energy of the particle to decipher where it came from.
A scatter plot with many colors is depicted and read to determine whether the muon came from the sun, or from a different source of super high energy such as a particle accelerator, or nuclear compounds.
“I’ve been a fan of CERN and their YouTube videos since I began liking physics, and I’m really excited to be working on projects that closely relate to their work.” said Tommy Walker, junior physics major.
Muons happen naturally when a cosmic ray hits the atmosphere at a high energy and muons then get showered and dispersed.
The left plate inside the MTS picks up muons at a higher rate and varies while the right stays constant.
This means that muons decay in the middle of the MTS and did not originate from a large source like the sun.
“There are different types of energy from different reactions, and the direction of the energy can be used to find the mass.” Holmann said. “These machines are used and can catch people smuggling nuclear material.”
Detecting a muon also implies figuring out the angle from which it may have been deflected on, if there was lead to shield, it can be read by the scattering patterns in the 3D imaging detector.
The lab for MTS has been mainly under Holmann’s provision since around 2008 and received funding from the Department of Homeland Security for around four years, however not anymore.
Physics major Merrick Lavinsky, junior, was a part of the research group that was building the MTS during his freshman year at Florida Tech.
Lavinsky was one of five in a group, under professor Francisco Yumiceva, dedicated to building a machine they knew was an important facet to past and future research development bigger than the scope of only Florida Tech.
“We finished most of the project during my freshman year, but with the ongoing process of what had been put in before me and what we’re going to get after the project,” said Lavinsky. “We all knew it was on a big scale of importance with how accurate everything needed to be.”
At such a small scale of detection, the accuracy is very important to the success of the readings.
Tommy Walker, junior, is a physics major who currently works with the MTS in Holmann’s research.
“I had to check and make sure Dr. Holmann was okay about us talking about this,” Walker said.
The components of this material, such as many of the aerospace companies, have confidential research and information for their services that could be considered proprietary for companies; in some cases where research is on a global scale, they may not be allowed to talk about it so openly.
The research is highly prominent in further developing quantum theory as well as understanding fundamental nuclear functionality and exactly how dangerous it can be.
With connections to CERN, the prestige given to the pool of intelligence where this research is coming and going cannot be overstated.
Walker said, “The reason I joined is to use subatomic particles that an average person hasn’t heard of, to find hidden objects.”
Almost investigative, the research group aims at identifying exactly where and how a muon came from, thus by reading its position and scattering map with the tomography detectors.
Senior physics major, Akshath Wikramanayake said, “It would be nice if everyone shared the same enthusiasm for particle physics. I actually think Dr. Holmann was the reason for Consensus coming to visit our campus.”
Particle Physics rapper Consensus had visited Florida Tech and hosted a concert at the pantherium in November of last semester.
He was mostly swayed by the incredibly up to date science and research on campus, largely due to Holmann, said Wikramanayake.
The rapper focuses on spreading the message of science and raps about quantum theory and particle physics.
The research group hopes to continue bringing awareness and interest into the program.