Oct 31, 2017

The ScanPyramids collaboration has discovered a new void in the heart of the Kheops pyramid. This large vacuum was detected by muonic imaging techniques conducted by three separate teams from Nagoya University (Japan), CEC (Japan) and CEA/IRFU. It is the first discovery of a major internal structure of Kheops since the Middle Ages.

Similar in size to the Great Gallery, an architectural structure located in the heart of the Great Pyramid (47m long, 8m high), this new cavity, called ScanPyramids Big Void, has a minimum length of 30 metres. First observed with nuclear emulsion films installed in the Queen's Chamber (Nagoya University), then detected with a scintillator telescope installed in the same chamber (KEK), it was confirmed with gas detectors, MICROMEGAS, located outside the pyramid (CEA), and thus with a very different angle of view allowing to refine the location of this void. This is the first time that an instrument has detected a cavity located at the bottom of a pyramid from the outside.

These results were published by the ScanPyramids team on November 2, 2017 in the journal Nature.

Apr 25, 2017

According to the ALICE collaboration at LHC (CERN), certain rare proton collisions have properties that are similar to those of a quark–gluon plasma. In the past, these properties had been observed for collisions of heavy nuclei only. The physicists are now confronted with a new enigma: how can a state of quark–gluon plasma emerge in a system as "small" as that generated by a collision between two protons?

Jul 18, 2017

To ascertain the "strangeness" property of the proton, an international collaboration including IRFU has produced, starting from protons, other particles containing a "strange" quark and characterized them. These high-precision measurements carried out at CERN in Geneva will lead to a better understanding of the contribution of strange quarks to the nucleon's spin. 

Jun 14, 2017
An international team has performed the first spectroscopy of the very neutron-rich isotopes 98,100 Kr. The collaboration, led by scientists from the CEA Irfu and RIKEN (Japan)  included several European groups and physicists from IPN-Orsay. This experiment showed that there are two coexisting quantum configurations at low excitation energy in the 98Kr nucleus. The competition between these two configurations, represented by different shapes, has been previously evidenced in the isotopic chains Rb, Sr and Zr  by an abrupt transition from one shape to another, starting from the 60th neutron. This experiment observes however that in the Kr isotopic chain there is a much more gradual transition between these two configurations as a function of neutron number. This study marks a decisive step towards an understanding of the limits of this quantum phase transition regionIt was published in Physical Review Letters [PRL 118, 242501 (2017)].
Jan 24, 2017

An international team led by IRFU and the Japanese research institute RIKEN was able to study the structure of a neutron-rich zirconium nucleus (110Zr)—a first, calling certain models into question. Produced by an accelerator at RIKEN and measured by the MINOS detector, this heavy nucleus proves to be more deformed than expected. 

Nov 14, 2017

The physicists from the Compass collaboration at Cern, which comprises a team from Irfu, have just published the results of a new measurement of the quark structure of the proton [1]. This uncommon but eagerly awaited measurement tends to confirm one of the basic assumptions of the theory of the strong interaction, the Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). According to QCD, the complex reaction between two particles in a collision of sufficiently high energy can be separated (factorized) into two contributions: the interaction itself and the quark distribution functions inside the interacting particles. To examine the concept of factorization, the experimenters measured the same quantity called asymmetry, but using two different physical processes: first with a muon beam and then with a pion beam. The result is uncommon because paradoxically, in order to confirm the QCD predictions, the two processes must produce opposite-sign results.

Jan 22, 2017
The fourth dimension of the nucleon

The dynamical view of the internal structure of the nucleon is conveniently described in terms of ‘electromagnetic form factors’, that contain the information on the charge and magnetic currents created by the constituent quarks and gluons. Electron scattering allows to characterize the nuclear matter, which distribution within a radius of 1 fm (10-15 m) is far from being uniform. This matter can be created in electron-positron annihilation or annihilate when matter and antimatter collide in a proton-antiproton collision. The same form factors formally enter in the description of these reactions. They bring the secret of the matter creation from the quantum vacuum. IRFU, following pioneering experiments at Saclay (ALS), participated to several experiments in this topic,  in scattering reactions (at Jefferson Lab, USA) and in annihilation reactions (SLAC, USA). A future experiment will measure these form factors in a large kinematical domain: the PANDA experiment at FAIR (Darmstadt,Germany). A realistic computer simulation of the expected precision of this measurement has recently been published in the EPJA and selected to make the cover page of the journal. The expected precision of the reaction: antiproton-proton annihilation into a lepton pair, will allow for the first time the individual determination of the electric and magnetic form factors in the time-like region.

How the constituents of the matter, the quarks and the gluons, do interact?

Electromagnetic form factors offer an essential information on the dynamical properties of this interaction. They acquire, however, a different meaning in the different kinematical regions. In the scattering region (called space-like) they carry the information of the spatial dimension (the electric charge density), whereas in the annihilation region (the time-like region) they carry a time-dependent information, that can be interpreted as the formation time of the quark-antiquark pairs from the quantum vacuum and of their evolution in time towards the formation of a proton-antiproton pair. 

The reaction of interest here is the proton-antiproton annihilation into a lepton pair. The experimental challenge consists in detecting an electron-positron pair hidden in a hadronic background that is more important by several orders of magnitude. Indeed, the initial particles being hadrons (i.e., particles driven by the strong interaction) the probability to create hadrons is millions of time higher than leptons (particles driven by the weak and electromagnetic interactions), in particular electrons and muons. The most difficult reaction to be subtracted from the background is definitely the production of two charged pions, as the pions are the lightest hadrons and the momenta of pions and electrons are comparable. The reconstruction of the kinematics allows to reject the reactions with more particles in the final state, the neutral pions that disintegrate into two photons, as well as secondary particles. Most of all, the reconstruction of the energy loss in the electromagnetic calorimeter is discriminative for the identification of electrons with respect to pions. 



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