Particle Detection

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Particle Detection

Lecturers in 2016/2017:

* Olga Igonkina
* Niels van Bakel

Location: H239 at Nikhef

Slides are available at


The fundamental questions in particle and astroparticle physics require the development of state-of-the-art instrumentation. The objective of this course is to introduce students to modern methods of particle detection. After this course students are familiar with particle-matter interactions, various detector technologies, and capable to evaluate specific detector designs through calculations and computer simulations.


Particle detectors and big science instruments in general, make the existence and characteristics of particles and fields manifest to us. Hence, physicists need to design instruments with mind-boggling specifications which involves the latest innovations in material science, nano-electronics, and system engineering. Particle detection requires the application of many fields of physics and engineering to meet the extreme conditions and high precision set by these new experiments. This course covers:

1. Physical phenomena used for particle detection: interactions of charged particles (ionisation, excitation, scattering, etc.), interaction of photons (photoelectric effect, Compton effect, pair production) and other neutral particles.

2. Measurement of time, energy and spatial coordinates of traversing particles. Detector performance expressed in resolution, efficiency, background and noise.

3. Detector technologies: solid-state, gaseous and noble liquid detectors, photomultipliers, scintillation detectors, wire chambers. Signal processing: readout electronics and trigger systems.

4. Measurement of particle trajectories and momentum: math and basic statistics. Particle identification via Cherenkov radiation, transition radiation, Time-of-Flight techniques, and electro-magnetic and hadronic calorimeters.

5. Applications: sources of particles and radiation, LHC experiments, medical instrumentation, neutrino and dark matter detection.

The design of a particle detector requires a good understanding of basic physics and the ability to make approximations of the physics processes involved in complex instrumentation. Throughout the course homework assignments and detector simulations are used to develop these skills. Students will give an oral presentation and write an essay on scientific instrumentation to learn to communicate novel detector concepts to your colleagues. Order of magnitude numerical estimates are important here and not derivations from first principles.


Lectures + Computer lab session/practical training + Presentation/symposium + Self-study


The students write an essay on a particle physics experiment and give a presentation on the same topic.

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