U.S. Particle Accelerator School

Fundamentals of Detector Physics and Measurements Lab course

Sponsoring University:

Michigan State University


Fundamentals of Detector Physics and Measurements Lab


Carl Bromberg, Michigan State University and Dan Green, Fermilab

Purpose and Audience
The course is an introduction to the underlying principles of the detectors used in particle physics experiments. The course is suitable for senior undergraduate and entry-level graduate students in physics and engineering or students from other fields with a particular interest in high energy physics detectors.


Either previous coursework or a general understanding of classical physics and electromagnetism. Courses in special relativity, classical mechanics and electrodynamics at an undergraduate level or higher are required.

It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that he or she meets the course prerequisites or has equivalent experience.

The course focuses on the physical principles of particle detectors. Lectures will review and synthesize concepts from special relativity, mechanics and electromagnetism in the context of particle detectors with an emphasis on the basic relationships, definitions, and applications of the detectors used in high energy particle physics and elsewhere. Upon completing this course, students should understand the basic workings of detectors and be able to analyze experimental observations in terms of the basic data recorded by an ensemble of particle detectors which have been assembled into a complete experiment.

Instructional Method
This course will offer a series of lectures during morning sessions, followed by afternoon laboratory sessions. The laboratory sessions will introduce students to computer simulations and measurements of selected detector types. The students will be required to write lab reports and will be graded on them. Homework problems will be assigned each day and the instructors will be available to help answer questions about the homework and lectures during the evening exercise sessions.

Course Content
The lectures will begin with a review of the relevant units, coupling constants, energy scales, sizes and cross sections. Then a discussion of non-destructive measurements of particle interactions will begin, starting with the photoelectric effect. Then Cerenkov radiation will be covered, followed by transition radiation. The focus then shifts to scattering and ionization. Magnetic analysis is introduced and limitations in track measurements by drift and diffusion are examined. Silicon detectors are given a deeper examination due to their importance in collider detectors. The emphasis then shifts to destructive measurements and detection. Radiation and electromagnetic calorimetry are first discussed, followed by hadronic calorimetry and neutron backgrounds. At the conclusion of the course, the student should have seen a fundamental explanation of most of the detector types used in high energy physics experiments.

The laboratory will address particle detection and identification. Students will (literally) see what happens to charged and neutral particles as they pass though the matter of a detector. This visualization is accomplished with a Liquid Argon Time Projection Chamber (LArTPC), a detector yielding direct 3D information along the trajectory of a particle. Using simulated samples of electrons, photons, muons, and hadrons moving through the Argon, the unique characteristics of each particle type are identified, as are the variations within each sample. After training, students will be asked to identify the particles in a sample prepared with mix of particle types. If time allows, neutrino interactions from a real experiment will be studied to illustrate the ability of a LArTPC to identify the flavor of the interacting neutrino.

Reading Requirements
(to be provided by the USPAS) "The Physics of Particle Detectors", by D. Green, Cambridge University Press, 2000. Optional reading material can be found in: “At the Leading Edge, the ATLAS and CMS LHC Experiments”, Edited by D. Green, World Scientific , 2010

Credit Requirements
Students will be evaluated based on performance: homework assignments (60% of final grade) and laboratory reports (40% of final grade).

IU/USPAS course: Physics 671