German Research Foundation funds experiment on the decay of the elementary particle muon
In the latest approval round of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Heidelberg University succeeded in obtaining funding for a new Research Unit in physics. Researchers from Heidelberg, Karlsruhe and Mainz together with international partners from Switzerland and England will use an ultramodern particle detector to search for the possible decay of the elementary particle muon (Mu) into three electrons (3e). André Schöning of the Institute for Physics at Heidelberg University will serve as spokesperson for the "Search for the lepton-flavour violating decay with the Mu3e experiment" Research Unit. The DFG is providing nearly 4.6 million euros in funding for a period of four years.
In the standard model of particle physics, the decay of the muon into three electrons is considered highly improbable, although several models actually predict it. "The muon, which is about 200 times heavier than the electron, is not a stable particle, and usually decays into an electron, a neutrino, and an antineutrino in its two-microsecond lifetime. Particle physicists all over the world are looking for a neutrinoless decay of the muon," explains Prof. Schöning. Through the use of state-of-the-art technologies in particle detector instrumentation, the Heidelberg physicists intend to boost the sensitivity by a factor of 10,000 to detect this yet-to-be-discovered decay into the three electrons.
Two working groups of Heidelberg particle physicists are part of the so-called Mu3e experiment. Under the direction of Prof. Schöning, critical components for the ultrathin silicon pixel detector are being made at the Institute for Physics. A working group led by Prof. Hans-Christian Schultz-Coulon at the Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics is producing key components for the picosecond-fast time recording system. Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology as well as from Great Britain and Switzerland are also contributing to the construction and commissioning of the Mu3e experiment at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland.