ALICE Gets a Makeover

US labs team up to upgrade instrumentation for CERN’s A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE).

A team of US institutions has completed a major effort to design, develop, produce, and deliver particle detectors and state-of-the-art electronics for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The new instruments will provide new capabilities for the ALICE project.

ALICE is a huge undertaking, with 1,917 participants from 177 institutions in 40 nations. The goal of the experiment is to better understand how matter behaves at extremely high temperatures and densities. According to the press release, “To that end, the LHC creates a succession of “little bangs”—samples of matter at energy densities not seen in the universe since microseconds after the Big Bang. ALICE’s detectors identify the high-energy particles and track their trajectories, interactions, and decays that produce lower-energy daughter particles, daughters of daughters, and so on. The upgrades enable ALICE to more efficiently track particles at high rates, digitize their weak analog electronic signals continuously and stream the tsunami of readout data to high-performance computing (HPC) centers around the world for analysis.”

Thomas M. Cormier, ORNL physicist and director of the upgrade project says the upgrade will take ALICE to places it couldn’t have gone before. “Revising the instrumentation lets us expand the window of the science that ALICE can look at. A lot of things are waiting out there to be discovered if we just have the sensitivity to see them.”