Its name may suggest it is the stuff of science fiction, but it’s not. SciFi – the new scintillating-fibre particle-tracking detector of the LHCb experiment – is very real, and its first pieces have just journeyed 100 metres down to be installed in the underground cavern that houses the experiment. The construction of the detector and its installation in the LHCb cavern are part of the ongoing upgrade work that is transforming LHCb so it can sustain a fivefold increase in the rate of proton-proton collisions when the Large Hadron Collider starts up again in 2022.
The scintillating-fibre detector is no ordinary particle detector. As the name indicates, the detector is made of scintillating fibres – optical fibres that emit light when a particle interacts with them. The fibres also contain additional scintillator dyes that shift the light’s wavelength from ultraviolet to blue-green, such that it can travel the length of the fibre and be recorded by devices called silicon photomultipliers, which convert the light to electrical signals.
Such detector technology is not new, but it has had to be refined to achieve the scale and precision of the SciFi detector. Scientists had to painstakingly examine and wind more than 10 000 kilometres of fibre to produce the multi-layer ribbons needed for the detector modules – no mean feat.
“It took more than a dozen partner institutes in nine different countries working together since 2014 to make SciFi a reality,” says Blake Leverington, who is coordinating the assembly of the 12 separate pieces that will make up the complete detector. “The lowering of the first four SciFi pieces into the LHCb cavern is an exciting and satisfying moment for us.”
The remaining eight pieces are being assembled and will be installed before the LHC proton beams return in the spring of 2022. Watch this space for more milestones in the transformation of LHCb in time for the next LHC run.