The Mu2e experiment would greatly advance research at the Intensity Frontier. The U.S. Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, P5, and Fermilab's Physics Advisory Panel, a group comprised of global experts in the field, consider the experiment a top priority.
Particle accelerators allow physicists to look farther and farther back in time, to revisit the high energies of the early universe just after the Big Bang. Do the four forces that determine how particles interact that we observe today-gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the weak and strong forces-converge to a single unified force at ultra-high energy? The Mu2e experiment may provide the first evidence for such unification of forces. (Credit: symmetry magazine/Sandbox Studio)
The Mu2e detector is a particle physics detector embedded in a series of superconducting magnets. The magnets are designed to create a low-energy muon beam that can be stopped in the thin aluminum stopping target and to provide a constant magnetic field in the detector region that allows the momentum of the conversion electrons to be accurately determined. (Credit: symmetry magazine)
In recent years, particle physicists have increasingly turned their attention to finding physics beyond the Standard Model, the current description of the building blocks of matter and how they interact.
Discoveries beyond the Standard Model will help scientists answer some of the most fundamental questions about matter and our universe. Were the forces of nature combined in one unifying force at the time of the Big Bang? How did the universe change from being dominated by energy and radiation remnants from the Big Bang to the one we see today with visible matter, including people and plants?
Addressing these challenging questions will require combining insight and observations from the three discovery frontiers: Cosmic, Energy and Intensity. The linchpin for discovery during the next few decades will be research at the Intensity Frontier on ultra-rare processes, including muon-to-electron conversion. Intensity Frontier searches will provide part of the context to interpret discoveries made on the other frontiers and narrow the number of plausible theories for the origins of physics beyond the Standard Model.
Mu2e will directly probe the Intensity Frontier as well as aid research on the Energy and Cosmic frontiers with precision measurements required to characterize the properties and interactions of new particles discovered at the Intensity Frontier.
Observing muon-to-electron conversion will remove a hurdle to understanding why particles in the same category, or family, decay from heavy to lighter, more stable mass states. Physicists have searched for this since the 1940s. Discovering this is central to understanding what physics lies beyond the Standard Model.
At the most simplistic level, electrons are responsible for the electricity that lights our houses and turns on our computers. Muons are some sort of heavier cousin of the electron, but we're not sure just what the relationship is. This experiment will help us understand that relationship, and so understanding muons is part of understanding the electrons that power our society.
Construction may begin in 2015, commissioning in 2019 and initial preliminary results may be ready about 2020.
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