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York physicists to help develop new detector technology for a new powerful particle collider

Posted on 11 October 2021

University of York scientists are part of a team developing new detector technology needed for the next powerful particle accelerator, the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC).

Inside the protonElectron-Ion Collider (EIC) experiments will offer insights into why quarks or gluons must transform into and remain confined within protons and nuclei. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

With £3million of funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), nuclear and particle physicists in the UK will be leading preliminary work to help design the first particle detector at the new facility, to be built at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States.

Large particle accelerators are used for basic research in nuclear and particle physics, and the electron-ion collider (EIC) will allow physicists to address fundamental and unsolved questions in science about the nature of matter.

The new facility will allow scientists to image, in detail, the quarks and gluons found inside protons and atomic nuclei, and to study not only how they are distributed but also how they move and interact with one another.


Researchers from the University of York will carry out a research and development programme to address some of the technological challenges in delivering the physics programme at the EIC.

They will transfer new technologies from chemistry and medical research to particle detector design, and develop new advanced simulation methods.

Technologies developed by the University of York’s Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (ChyM) - previously applied for use in medical research - will be utilised for the first time in a particle/nuclear physics facility.


The programme will exploit York’s expertise in polarimetry – a technique used to measure the orientation of a particle’s spin.

Professor Simon Duckett, from the Department of Chemistry, said “Back in the 1960s, the creation of spin-polarised probes provided us with a tantalising opportunity to study particle interactions. It is only now though, by harnessing a simple low-cost technology developed in York, we expect to be able to fully unlock this capability through the creation of a versatile polarised particle detector.”

Professor Dan Watts, from the Department of Physics, said: "It is a very exciting time for hadron physics and it is great to be exploring the application of new technologies and methods for this next-generation facility".

Strong interaction

The science enabled by the EIC promises to revolutionise the understanding of the ‘strong interaction’, one of the fundamental forces of nature. This force governs the behaviour of hadrons – the family of subatomic particles that includes protons and neutrons – that is behind more than 99% of the visible mass of the universe.

Scientists will use the EIC to try to find out how the strong interaction works as a glue to hold matter together. 

Over two and a half years, the funding will position the UK to lead the development of some of the cutting-edge detector technologies.

It is expected that construction of the accelerator and its detectors will commence around 2023/24, once the design is complete. 

The first-year funding was approved under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund.

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About this research

With funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), nuclear and particle physicists in the UK will develop technologies to help design the first particle detector at the new EIC facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the USA.

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