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19 december 2018

Approved FOM programme



Title LHC Physics: the Dutch participation (LHC)
Executive organisational unit


Programme management Prof.dr. S.C.M. Bentvelsen


Cost estimate

M€ 20.8

The objectives

The discovery of the Higgs boson is the start of a major programme of work to determine this particle's properties with the highest possible precision to test the validity of the Standard Model and to search for New Physics at the energy frontier. Apart from the detailed investigations of the Higgs by ATLAS, the other foci of this LHC physics programme are:

  • the nature of the minute matter-antimatter differences (primarily LHCb), essential to explain the matter dominance in the Universe today, 13.8 billion years after the Big Bang;
  • the structure of the quark-gluon plasma (primarily ALICE), a state of matter assumed to have existed briefly after the Big Bang;
  • and – last but not least – a search for physics beyond the so-called Standard Model (all expe­riments), the immensely successful theoretical framework accurately describing a wealth of experimental observations but notoriously falling short in explaining the nature of the mysterious dark matter in the Universe.

Background, relevance and implementation
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is the world's most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC will dominate the particle physics studies for at least another decade. Nikhef, the National Institute for Subatomic Physics, coordinates the Dutch activities at CERN. Nikhef was a founding member of the general purpose ATLAS experiment (1991) and the LHCb experiment (1994) dedicated to the study of matter-antimatter differences in systems with b-quarks. In 1994, Nikhef joined the ALICE experiment optimized to study the quark-gluon plasma. Over the past decades, Nikhef has made major contributions to the design, construction, commissioning and operation of these three detectors as well as to the simulation and reconstruction software needed to extract physics results from the immense data samples. With one of the about ten worldwide Tier-1 LHC grid compute centres housed jointly by Nikhef and SURFsara, Nikhef also plays a key role in the LHC data handling management. This long-term FOM support started to really pay-off with the successful start of LHC operations in 2009. With this the LHC already achieved Nobel Prize quality research, based on only one percent of the aimed-for integral LHC data sample and at about fifty percent of the design centre-of-mass energy. At this moment, the LHC is in shutdown to implement modifications to notably the super-conducting magnets to allow safe LHC operations at the full design centre-of-mass energy of 14 TeV. The LHC restart is scheduled for 2015 with centre-of-mass energies in the 13–14 TeV region and with a beam intensity ('luminosity') which is expected to gradually increase to even surpass the design 10 nb–1s−1 luminosity to eventually accumulate an integral luminosity of 3000 fb–1 (100 times what was accumulated so far) by around 2035. With these prospects, the LHC is the facility to unveil and explore the TeV energy scale.

This programme allows Nikhef to capitalize on our significant past investments and to conti­nue Dutch presence at the forefront of accelerator-based particle physics, i.e. at CERN's (and the World's) flagship project: the Large Hadron Collider. For the period 2014–2021 we will hire PhD students (ATLAS 18, LHCb 12 and ALICE 10) and postdocs (ATLAS 6, LHCb 4 and ALICE 3) for the three experiments. In addition, Nikhef aspires to compete for additional fun­ding via various FOM, NWO and EU open competition subsidy programmes, to maintain the overall LHC effort in the Netherlands at its current level.

The programme will be evaluated as part of the evaluation of Nikhef in 2017.
The final evaluation will be based on the self-evaluation report initiated by the programme leader and is foreseen for 2022.