NFS (Neutrons For Science) is an experimental area of the Spiral2 facility (Ganil, France) that will provide high intensity neutron beams for energies ranging from 0.5 to 40 MeV. The neutrons will be created by collision of Spiral2 charged particles with carbon, beryllium or lithium targets, thanks to a key element of NFS, the converter. The design of this one is a real challenge because it has to withstand a high power deposited by Spiral2's intense beams. In this context, Irfu has designed and built a converter able to support a power of 2 kW. NFS neutron beams will provide information in an unexplored energy domain. Fundamental physics, nuclear reaction modelling and nuclear databases will thus benefit from a unique tool.
The STEREO experiment presented its first physics results at the 53rd Rencontres de Moriond1. STEREO is a neutrino detector made up of six scintillation liquid cells that has been measuring, since November 2016, the electronic antineutrinos produced by the Grenoble high neutron flux reactor 10 metres from the reactor core. The existence of a fourth neutrino state, called sterile neutrino, could explain the deficit in neutrino flux detected at a short distance from nuclear reactors compared to the expected value. Indeed, this anomaly could result from a short-range oscillation that would result in less expected electronic antineutrinos being detected because they would disappear into sterile neutrinos. The first results obtained in 2018 after 66 days of data exclude a significant part of the parameter space. The experiment will continue to take data until the end of 2019. By multiplying the statistics by four and minimizing systematic analysis errors, STEREO will be able to shed light on the existence of this 4th neutrino family.
During an experiment carried out at GANIL in Caen (France), an international team, led by researchers from Irfu and the University of Oslo, studied the shape of the Zirconium-98 nucleus. The shape of a nucleus corresponds to the area where its protons and neutrons can be found. Understanding it means mastering the behaviour of each proton/neutron and their arrangement related to the nuclear force. The objective was to determine the shape of the nucleus in different excited states. The results give a complex scenario, for which three different shapes - spherical, slightly deformed and strongly deformed - coexist within the same nucleus depending on whether it is in its ground or excited state. In addition, its neighbouring nucleus, Zirconium-100 with only two more neutrons, behaves in the opposite way. This sudden change in the shape of these two isotopes is a rare phenomenon that strongly constrains nuclear structure models. These results have been published recently in Physical Review Letters .
The first triplet of superconducting multipoles of the S3 Super Separator Spectrometer arrived at Ganil on August 29, 2018. S3 is one of the experiment rooms of the Spiral2 facility. The magnet, with a mass of 2.8 tonnes, is 1.8 m long and almost as high. This innovative type of magnet is very compact despite the number of optical functions it can generate (quadrupole, sextupole, octupole and dipole). It is the first of a series of seven to be delivered to the Ganil.
The magnetic field is generated by a niobium-titanium alloy (NbTi) conductor arranged in an epoxy/glass fibre matrix and operate at the temperature of the liquid helium (4.2 kelvins). The power supply leads are composed of two types of high-temperature superconductors and nitrogen-cooled.
It’s a unique design resulting from a collaboration between Ganil, CEA/Irfu, the American laboratory in Argonne Nat. Lab. and the two manufacturers in charge of prototyping and series (Advanced Magnet Lab. for superconducting coils, Cryomagnetics Inc. for cryostats and integration).
This element was financed by EQUIPEX n° 10-EQPX-0046, awarded to S3 by the National Research Agency in 2011.
During an experiment carried out at the accelerator of the Australian National University (Canberra, Australia), a French-Australian collaboration (GANIL Caen, IPN Orsay, IRFU/DPhN Saclay, ANU Canberra) first identified the fragments created in quasi-fission reactions with atomic numbers Z up to plutonium (Z=94) and mass A. For this study, near-fission reactions were induced during collisions between 48Ti projectile ions, accelerated to 276 MeV, and target atoms of 238U. The atomic numbers were deduced from the characteristic fluorescence X-ray emissions and the masses from the angular correlations and velocities of the emerging fragments. The data collected highlights shell effects which increase the production of nuclei around the magic number Z=82 (lead) in near-fission reactions. These results, which will make it possible to optimize experiments aimed at creating heavier elements by fusion, as well as the prospects opened up by this original experimental approach in the field of nuclear fission and fusion, have led to a publication in the journal Physical Review Letters (M. Morjean et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 222502).
As part of the new CLAS spectrometer project for the 12 GeV electron energy upgrade of the Jefferson Lab (USA) IRFU has been conducting R&D for more than 10 years to design and build a new generation tracker, using thin and flexible MICROMEGAS detectors that are now operating with the new CLAS12 spectrometer. After one year of installation, this tracker is operational and meets the expected characteristics with more than 95% detection efficiency and a spatial resolution of less than 100μm. After a dedicated data collection to measure the detector response, the new CLAS12 spectrometer is now collecting data for the DVCS physics experiment, where IRFU also participates and which objective is to measure the internal structure of the proton in three dimensions.
The exceptional success of the tracker project, that results from a close collaboration between IRFU's engineering and physics departments (DEDIP, DIS and DPHN), has been an example for other projects. Let us quote the LHC experiments for particle hunting, the muonic imaging of the pyramids, as well as a transfer of know-how to industry.
In an article published in August 2018 in the journal Nature , the CLAS collaboration of Jefferson Lab (USA) reports an extensive study on short-range correlations between nucleons in different nuclei. The conclusion goes against intuition, indicating that the greater the ratio of neutrons to protons in a nucleus, the greater the speed of protons relative to neutrons. These very fast protons could be a key to understanding the formation of ultra-rich neutron systems like neutron stars and their coalescence first observed a year ago. This phenomenon is all the more important as it could contribute to the creation of the heavy elements of the universe.
An important scientific program is devoted to the three-dimensional structure of the proton in particular its elementary constituents, quarks and gluons. A new generation of experimental facilities at Jefferson Lab (US), CERN, and perhaps later on at a future electron-ion collider (EIC), should make it possible to perform proton tomography with unprecedented accuracy. The success of this program depends on the extraction of quantities called generalized parton distributions (GPD) from a wide variety of observable sources. IRFU, in partnership with American, Spanish and Italian institutes, has taken a decisive step forward, by systematically building GPD models that comply with all the required theoretical constraints. These results are reported in two publications in high-impact journals Eur. Phys. J. C.  and Phys. Lett. B .
A recent theoretical study of the IRFU has overturned a dark matter mechanism claiming to explain the anomaly in the neutron lifetime. Indeed, the strong constraints, extracted from this mechanism, make it impossible to theoretically predict the neutron stars of 2 solar masses whose existence is known. This study was conducted in collaboration with physicists from the University of Adelaide in Australia, and will soon be published in the journal J. Phys. G. Based on theoretical calculations of nuclear physics, combined with astronomical observations, this case illustrates well the fertility of transverse approaches in physics.
In ultra-relativistic heavy ion collisions at CERN's LHC accelerator, a new state of matter is formed: the quark-gluon plasma (QGP). It is a kind of very dense and hot "soup" containing only the most elementary constituents of matter. A few microseconds after the Big Bang, the Universe would have passed through this state. Because of the interactions between its constituents, the QGP flows like a fluid. At the LHC, interactions between constituents of the QGP are so strong that even objects as massive as the charmed quarks are carried away by this flow, as suggested by the measurement of the flow of the J/ψ (particle composed of a charm quark and its antiparticle) of ALICE during the first campaign of the LHC (see highlight 2013). This result has just been confirmed by the ALICE collaboration using data from the new LHC campaign (2015-2018). The precision obtained suggest the need of including new mechanisms in the theoretical models. The Saclay group played a key role in analyzing this data.