First year of data taking at high energy for MoEDAL

MoEDAL - the LHC experiment designed to search for highly ionising avatars of new physics, such as magnetic monopoles or massive pseudo-stable charged particles - has collected data from p-p and Pb-Pb collisions at high energy. A unique feature of the experiment is its membership, which includes a high school.


Visualisation of the MoEDAL array in the LHCb cavern. (Photo: MoEDAL Collaboration)

MoEDAL’s physics programme is investigating more than 34 scenarios that could yield potentially revolutionary insights into such fundamental questions as: are there extra dimensions or new symmetries? Where does the mechanism for the generation of mass originate from? Does magnetic charge exist? What is the nature of dark matter? How did the Big Bang develop?

MoEDAL employs a number of unconventional methodologies, specially tuned to the prospect of discovery physics. The largely passive MoEDAL detector, deployed at Point 8 on the LHC ring, works in two ways. First, it acts like a giant camera, comprised of nuclear track detectors - analysed offline by ultra-fast scanning microscopes - sensitive only to new physics. Second, it is uniquely able to trap highly ionising particle messengers of physics beyond the Standard Model - for example, the magnetic monopole - for further study. Last but not least, MoEDAL's radiation environment is monitored by a state-of-the-art real-time TimePix pixel detector array.

View of the MoEDAL experiment, located at Point 8 on the LHC ring. (Photo: MoEDAL Collaboration.)

The full MoEDAL detector was installed in the winter of 2014 and started to take data officially in the spring of 2015. “In parallel to completing the installation of our detectors, we are analysing the first data from 2012 taken by test detectors, which were exposed to proton-proton and heavy-ion collisions,” says James Pinfold, physicist from the University of Alberta and the Spokesperson for the MoEDAL collaboration. “Our first physics result paper, based on data taken with a prototype trapping detector deployed for 8 TeV centre-of-mass energy collisions, is in its final stages of preparation. We now have our first year of proton-proton data taken at 13 TeV and Pb-Pb collisions and we look forward to the restart of the LHC in March.”

Members of the MoEDAL experiment at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition “on shift” at the first soirée. From left to right: Arttu Rajantie (Imperial College London), Edward Gillman (Imperial College London), Mairi Sakellariadou (King's College London),  James Pinfold (University of Alberta),  Anna Evans (Simon Langton School), Caitlin Cooke (Simon Langton School) and Becky Parker (Simon Langton School). (Photo: MoEDAL Collaboration.)

MoEDAL’s sensitivity is complementary to that of the other LHC detectors, extending the discovery horizon of the LHC using detectors that are insensitive to all Standard Model particles and immune to a background of fake signals. Importantly, MoEDAL is the first collider detector to be able to provide a permanent record of discovery physics that can be examined time and again.

The MoEDAL collaboration has tripled in size since its final approval in 2010 and now includes 66 physics groups from over 20 institutes on four continents. Alongside established research institutes and universities, the collaboration can also count on the unique contribution of some 20 students from the Simon Langton Grammar School in the UK. “The Langton School students are renowned for their expertise with the TimePix detector, which is one of the key detectors of our apparatus,” confirms Pinfold.

In 2015, the Royal Society of London chose to feature CERN’s MoEDAL experiment and its “Monopole Quest” at its Summer Science Exhibition. “Visitors took part in a number of activities,” recalls Pinfold. “They could design their own monopole detector, take part in the Citizen Science project to search online for monopole tracks in exposed MoEDAL plastic nuclear track detectors, and test MoEDAL trapping volumes for captured monopoles. In addition, thanks to an app developed by the students of the Langton School, they could visualise a Dirac monopole and investigate radioactivity on their cell phones using a MoEDAL TimePix Chip.” A truly amazing experience for the thousands of people who visited the exhibit!

by CERN Bulletin