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For the Public - High Energy Physics Tour

Particle Detectors at CDF

Fermilab is a large national laboratory that is dedicated to finding out what our world and universe are made of. In order to do this, it turns out we need to have access to very high energy collisions between very small pieces of matter, and then watch other pieces of matter that fly out of the "explosion." Now, we're talking about watching particles that are much smaller than a single atom. A natural question arises: How is it possible to "see" such unbelievably tiny objects? Below we begin to talk about what types of particle detectors we build and use on the CDF experiment, and some of the basic ideas of how they actually work.

The CDF detector as a whole looks overwhelming at first. It is about three stories tall and weighs some 5000 tons. It is a mass of steel and electronics and cables, and one might think it belongs on the set of some science fiction movie. While the sheer size is impressive, most people do not realize that it is a conglomeration of over 130,000 individual electronic channels (i.e. a whole bunch of smaller detectors) that must work together in order to find subatomic particles. We'll start looking at some of the pieces that make up the whole CDF detector.

There are several main components, or subsystems, that make up the CDF detector. Three of the main systems are: Tracking, Calorimetry, and Muon. Very briefly, the tracking system allows us to observe the paths and directions that electrically charged particles fly of on after a proton-antiproton collision. Tracking also allows us to measure the type of charge a particle has (positive or negative) as well as the particle's momentum. Calorimetry systems allow us to measure the energy of particles. Muon systems surround the CDF detector and allow us to observe and track muons, which are charged particles that are closely related to electrons and are important products in many different types of interesting events. Another very important piece of the CDF detector makes use of the three systems just mentioned, and it is called the trigger system. The trigger system involves more complicated electronics and computer components.

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last modified 7/19/2001   email CDF
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