The LHCb experiment is one the detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva. With the particle accelerator LHC, scientists produce collisions between protons at an unprecedented energy, hoping and expecting that this will generate new forms of matter.
The LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty) detector is able to detect these collisions with great precision and high speed. The different 'layers' of the detector are designed to register different characteristics of the particles that are produced at a collision, such as energy and velocity. The scientists working on this experiment are looking for answers surrounding matter and antimatter.
The LHCb detector was designed and built by a collaboration of 700 scientists from 50 different universities and research institutes from 15 countries.
The most widely accepted theory about how the Universe came into being is the Big Bang. 13.7 billion years ago our Universe started from one infinitely small and hot point, a singularity.
Very shortly after the Big Bang, there were equal amounts of matter and antimatter. When a particle meets its antiparticle, they annihilate each other, resulting in a flash of energy. How is it then possible that our current Universe only exists of matter? Was there a mechanism shortly after the Big Bang that made sure that matter and antimatter did not annihilate each other entirely? And what is the difference in physics laws for matter and antimatter?
The solution is most likely to be found in the latter: the minute asymmetry of a particle and its antiparticle.
How does the LHCb experiment research this? LHCb is designed for the accurate identification of the decay products of unstable particles and for the exact measurement of their tracks. It studies the minute differences between matter and antimatter using so-called beauty quarks and anti-beauty quarks. These are truly exotic particles, because they do not exist in our current Universe anymore and can only be produced in extremely powerful accelerators such as the LHC. LHCb studies the minute differences between the decay of the beaty and anti-beauty quarks and this way, the researchers hope to unravel the mystery surrounding matter and antimatter.
Nikhef has contributed greatly to the design and construction of the VErtex LOcator (VELO) and the Outer Tracker (OT). These parts form the spine of the LHCb-detector, they measure the tracks and vertices of the B-decay products. Apart from that, Nikhef has contributed to the development of software that reconstructs tracks that charged particles produce. In the coming years, Nikhef researchers, together with international colleagues, will remain active in the physics groups during the analysis of the research data.