Research University - Warsaw University of Technology

High Energy Physics and Experimental Techniques

Global and local challenges

In general, high energy physics is a scientific activity in areas related to the study of matter under extreme conditions. It involves the use of dedicated research tools, such as linear and circular accelerators of leptons (electrons) and atomic nuclei (from protons to nuclei of heavy elements such as Au or Pb). They provide collisions of atomic nuclei at enormous energies, from several gigaelectronvolts (GeV) to the maximum hitherto achieved human-made energy of 13 TeV for collisions of protons in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The system created in the collision evolves rapidly, and new elementary particles are emitted from its volume - up to several dozen thousands for one collision. These particles are measured in detectors surrounding the collision region. These are dedicated devices that use the latest technological advances and routinely create new technological challenges and solutions. In this way, the behavior of nuclear matter under extreme conditions - huge temperature (in the order of hundreds of MeV) and density (higher even by an order of magnitude when compared to ordinary nuclear density) is tested. This activity is an example of basic research leading to fundamental discoveries, such as confirming the existence of a new state of matter - the quark-gluon plasma (in which quarks are not confined into hadrons), or confirming the existence of a new elementary particle - the Higgs boson (Nobel Prize in physics in 2013). They can also be treated as the study of the phase diagram of the strongly interacting matter. This is important for many fields of science, among others for astrophysical research related to the properties of neutron stars and modeling their collisions - that is one of the main elements of the LIGO/VIRGO gravitational wave research program (Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017). Although the main goal is the basic research mentioned above, these projects, due to their scale and level of sophistication, generate huge engineering, technological and IT challenges.

For example, at the LHC, collisions occur at a frequency of up to 40 MHz, and each of them generates on the order of gigabytes of data in the detector (millions of readout channels). There is a need for dedicated, specialized electronic, IT and telecommunications solutions to collect, filter and save this data for further research. As a result, data volumes of hundreds of petabytes are generated, which must then be effectively analyzed. Another kind of challenges are the design, testing, construction and use of radiation detectors. The latest techniques of radiation detection, readout electronics, as well as mechanical and safety solutions are also used here.

Using similar organizational principles as for high energy physics experiments, research on plasma physics with the use of tokamaks to obtain energy through controlled nuclear fusion has been developing for several decades.

The scientific activity in the field of quantum technology is similarly related to the construction of control and measurement equipment in cooperation with leading scientific laboratories in Europe and the USA. This allows to standardize the equipment and facilitate cooperation between laboratories around the world. As a result of this large international cooperation, quantum computers based on ion traps, optical clocks, sensors based on ultra-cold atoms, or quantum computers on superconducting qubits are developed. Examples of created equipment include multi-channel devices reading and correcting errors in qubits, RF field generators enabling ion trapping, diagnostic tools, and system software.

All of those activities require scientific infrastructure of a significant scale – in terms of physical size, degree of complexity, technological and scientific challenges as well as the required research team size. That is why they are often referred to as "Big Science".

Scientific excellence

WUT is carrying out intensive, long-term research in the field of Big Science in the frame of wide international cooperation in the following research fields related to the POB: High Energy Physics and Experimental Techniques – basic research into the phase diagram of the nuclear matter in a broad range of temperatures and baryonic densities as well as carrying out of project, construction, exploitation and software tasks for the creation and maintenance of the detectors, including their electronics and computing systems. Groups from WUT are members of the following projects: ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN CERN (collaborating institution with full rights, est. 20 members), STAR experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory (USA) (collaborating institution with full rights, est. 15 members ), NA49 and NA61/SHINE experiments at the Super Proton Synchrotron at CERN (collaborating institution with full rights, est. 10 members), MPD experiment under construction at the NICA Complex at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, (collaborating institution with full rights, est. 10 members), BM@N experiment at the NICA Complex at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, (collaborating institution with full rights, est. 5 members), the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (WUT as a contributor to the construction of the muon trigger), the CBM experiment at the FAIR Complex in GSI in Darmstadt (collaborating institution with full rights, est. 10 members).

The groups at WUT are also involved in theoretical research (modeling, including calculations on supercomputers) in the field of nuclear physics, the study of the behavior of nuclear matter under conditions of extreme temperatures and baryonic density, conducted in international cooperation.

Other related activities are: quantum experiments, in particular: control of ion traps, reading of superconducting qubits, error correction in quantum computers - cooperation with leading scientific institutions from Europe (including Oxford, Humboldt, Niels Bohr Institute, CERN), USA (Maryland, Duke, NIST), plasma experiments: rapid diagnostics of plasma in tokamaks, control systems of tokamak experiments with particular focus on difficult environmental conditions - cooperation within EUROFUSION (WUT is a member) from EFDA, CEA, Wendelstein (Garching), astrophysical experiments: detection systems in the visible and infrared range, on the Earth's surface and in orbit, and physical experiments in Earth's orbit, including optical clocks, detection of gravitational waves, detectors for ultra-cold atoms, quantum cryptography - cooperation with scientific institutions and companies, among others CBK, Humboldt (Germany), Creotech, JPL (NASA), ESA.

The time scale of projects such as the Large Hadron Collider is set for decades. Their complexity requires the cooperation of thousands of scientists and engineers. These challenges exceed the capabilities of individual countries. Therefore, research is usually conducted as part of international experimental collaborations. For example, the collaboration of the CMS experiment has over 3,000 members, the ALICE experiment is about 1000 members, and the STAR or MPD and CBM experiments planned at the FAIR center at GSI have about 500 members. The WUT groups are full members of the following collaborations: ALICE at LHC at CERN, STAR at RHIC at BNL, NA61 / SHINE and NA49 at SPS at CERN, MPD at NICA at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, BM@N at Nuclotron in JINR, CBM at FAIR in Darmstadt. They also participate in the implementation of the CMS experiment at the LHC at CERN. In total, it is over 50 scientists, doctoral students, students, and engineers. In all cases, member institutions come from dozens of countries from all continents. In summary, research in this field is naturally conducted in a very wide and intense international cooperation, which also results in high mobility of scientific staff, both in terms of foreign trips of WUT employees (including long-term employees), as well as visits to WUT of recognized scientists from abroad and employing researchers who are not citizens of the Republic of Poland. The cooperation in question is also carried out in the form of intense national cooperation, for example within the consortium NICA-PL (WUT as the leader of the consortium), ALICE-PL, the Polish Consortiumof Particle Physics and others.

Research plans

Research of the phase diagram of strongly interacting matter is the current and fundamental part of nuclear physics research in the world. It is directly related to a number of other research fields, including astrophysics, theory of the evolution of the universe, neutron star physics, their collisions and supernova explosions. All research in this field is conducted as part of international collaborations (based on the so-called Memorandum of Understanding). Research is carried out in centers such as CERN or JINR, which have the status of international organizations financed from contributions from member countries - in both cases Poland is a member state. WUT has signed the "Collaboration Framework Agreement" with CERN and JINR. WUT also participates in the Euratom Joint Study Program. The WUT Platform of High Energy Physics Experiments operates at WUT, bringing together research groups from many faculties associated with the Priority Research Area.

At WUT there is a Tier-2 class computing cluster, as part of the WLCG network for the ALICE experiment (contributing about 300 cores for a period of 2 years). The utilization of this center will be continued, a significant upgrade of the computing capabilities is also planned, as new IT solutions become available.

Activities connected with POB led in the last 5 years to the awarding of 2 habilitations and 20 PhDs. Also 23 grants and financing of 7 projects from domestic and European sources were obtained. Research in the field of physics of heavy ion collisions is carried out in centers such as CERN and JINR - they have stable funding from membership fees of member states.

In particular, the operation of the LHC complex is planned for at least the next two decades. New research tools are being built - a complex of NICA accelerators in JINR and the FAIR complex in GSI, whose operation is also planned for at least a few decades. Both projects are on the roadmap of the EU's research infrastructure. The research is financed through grants from National Science Centre, National Centre for Research and Development, Ministry of Science and Higher Education, and grants awarded by EU institutions.

The financial expenditures for research in the field of quantum technologies and Space4.0 are growing from year to year. The EU will allocate EUR 1 billion to research in the field of quantum technologies in the years 2020-2025.

Experiments on plasma technologies, especially those related to tokamaks, amount to EUR 17bn in the perspective of 20 years. Funding of research in the Research Area is expected to be stable and allows for a gradual increase of the contributions from WUT to selected projects.

The Big Science projects mentioned above usually have a timescale of a decade or more. In particular this includes LHC at CERN, the ITER project and newly constructed infrastructure such as NICA at JINR and FAIR at GSI. Teams from WUT are already active in all those projects, their activity will be continued and enhanced.


It was mentioned that research in these areas is planned for decades. As a result, a constant supply of young scientists who will assume responsibility for the project in the future is essential. The challenges posed by this research also provide an excellent opportunity to include students in this work. This can be realized in many forms: an individual course of 1st and 2nd degree studies for students interested in the subject, the preparation of engineering and master's theses, student internships in domestic and foreign research institutions (including, for example, CERN and JINR), direct participation of students in international research of experimental collaborations. Many of the students participating in these activities continue their involvement as part of third-stage (doctoral) studies, during which they become full-fledged members of international collaboration and further through their employment as scientific or research and teaching staff. Under the cooperation agreements between WUT and CERN and JINR, an intensive student internship program is being implemented, including the "Team for the Future of NICA" program - in total, around 20-50 WUT students per year are involved in internships in foreign and international centers associated with the POB.

All WUT scientific staff involved in the POB use their specialist knowledge in teaching in a continuous and intensive way, giving specialized lectures, running laboratory courses and seminars for first, second and third degree students in many fields of study at WUT, including: Technical Physics, Optoelectronics, Electronics, Information Technology, Mechatronics, Materials Science, Power Engineering and others. WUT employees frequently participate in outreach activities for the high-school students as well as for the general public.

Human capital

There are more than 50 WUT scientific staff associated with the High Energy Physics and Experimental Techniques Research Areas, in research fields such as physics, electronics, optoelectronics, computer science, mechatronics, mechanical engineering, material science, and others. A constant influx of undergraduate and graduate students and considerable capabilities to hire new staff members, in particular, international staff (thanks to the fundamentally international nature of the scientific projects), guarantees a smooth generational exchange in the research teams.