This award provides support for a consortium of three universities to build a custom electronics system called the Fast TracKer (FTK) for the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The FTK will perform global track recognition reconstruction using the innovative technique of massive parallelism. A billion track patterns are pre-stored in custom content-addressable memory (Associative Memory) chips that are being designed. As each hit leaves the detector at full speed, it is simultaneously seen by all patterns. Track fitting is replaced by a linear calculation of the track parameters and the goodness of fit, with nearly offline resolution. With modern electronics, one can fit tracks at a rate of one track per nanosecond.

For the next decade, experiments at the LHC will provide unprecedented opportunities for answering the most important questions in elementary particle physics. Data collected by ATLAS will be used for hundreds of simultaneous analyses to search for the Higgs boson, supersymmetry, large extra dimensions, dark matter, Hidden Valley particles, the carriers of new forces, and other possible new phenomena as well as measure the detailed properties of the top and bottom quarks and the W and Z bosons in an attempt to understand what is beyond the Standard Model. Important discoveries are likely, but determining what the new phenomena are will not be easy. Large numbers of signal events are needed for such measurements, with as little background as possible. Tracking is essential for selecting events containing heavy fermions. At such luminosity, where large occupancy in the tracking detectors greatly increases track reconstruction time, only a small fraction of the events selected by the level-1 trigger could have track reconstruction done. The FTK, on the other hand, does global tracking three orders of magnitude more quickly than software reconstruction. As a result, it will enhance the physics reach for a broad range of ATLAS studies increasing the number of events retained for offline analysis by a factor of ten or more for broad classes of possible new phenomena. This means that if the new physics is dominated by such processes, ATLAS will be able to collect as many signal events in a year with much improved signal-to-background as it would without the FTK in a decade at the same luminosity.

This system is not only crucial for the ATLAS experiment, advancing the physics program of over 3000 scientists world-wide with 600 in the U.S., including over 200 graduate students from 40 institutions, but will also promote innovations in detector technology. The university groups in this proposal have a tradition for involving undergraduate and graduate students in detector development projects and this project will bring unique opportunities for training and teaching modern electronics and computing to a variety of levels of young people. It will be one of the most sophisticated systems built in high energy physics. Under the supervision of professors and engineers, graduate students and undergraduate students, including students from underrepresented groups, will collaborate in designing, building, and testing electronic boards, writing the firmware and software, and comparing to simulation - all marketable skills. Two of the five PIs are female thereby promoting diversity. This extremely fast pattern recognition technology that would be developed for the FTK could have a profound impact on all future versions of collider and astrophysics experiments as well as applications to other field such as medical imaging. As an example, in proton computed tomography the pattern recognition technology has the potential to increase data acquisition rates and thus reduce imaging time with improved resolution.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Randal Ruchti
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University of Chicago
United States
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