Over the next twenty years, Fermilab's Intensity Frontier program will use protons to produce intense beams of neutrinos and muons with possible upgrades that will also produce kaon and neutron beams, and high yields of short lived nuclear species. Experiments using these beams and nuclei will study rare processes more precisely and with more sensitivity than ever before providing a path to uncovering new fundamental physics that complements what can be done at collider facilities like the LHC.

Intensity Frontier experiments will investigate the mysterious new physics of leptons to understand precisely how and why lepton flavor is not conserved. Experiments to observe and measure ultra-rare kaon decays and search for electric dipole moments of the muon and neutron may reveal new interactions and new physics.

Project X will be the world's most intense and flexible particle accelerator, and is the centerpiece of Fermilab's long-term strategy to develop the world's leading Intensity Frontier physics program. Project X will permit extremely detailed studies of neutrinos, enable searches for the rarest processes involving muons and kaons and open up a new range of experiments using neutrons and short lived nuclear species to study fundamental physics.

The Intensity Frontier Department is home for Fermilab scientists, staff, and users from academic institutions around the world, working on more than 15 different experiments and projects.

Studying Neutrinos

The subatomic particles called neutrinos are among the most elusive in the particle kingdom. Scientists have built detectors underground, underwater, and at the South Pole to measure these ghostly particles that come from the sun, from supernovae and from many other celestial objects. Neutrinos fill the whole universe, with about 10 million of them per cubic foot, and most of them zip straight through the earth, and through particle detectors, without leaving a trace. Because they almost never interact with matter, only massive and sophisticated experiments can catch and measure the properties of neutrinos.

In addition to measuring neutrinos from the sky, physicists on earth use powerful accelerators to produce neutrino beams containing billions of neutrinos, of which a tiny fraction can be measured by detectors placed in the beam line. At Fermilab, the DONUT accelerator-based neutrino experiment led in 2000 to the discovery of the tau neutrino, the third of the three known types of neutrinos.

The NuMI beamline and the Booster Neutrino beamline deliver high intensity neutrino beams to Fermilab experiments such as MINOS and MINERvA, and for two new neutrino experiments MicroBooNE and NOvA.

Animation: Sandbox Studio

Studying Muons

As part of the Intensity Frontier initiative, Fermilab is inaugurating experiments that hunt for physical anomalies and look for discrepancies from the predictions of the Standard Model, our theoretical framework describing fundamental interactions. Scientists working on the g-2 and Mu2e experiments use beams of muons to do this. The muon is a heavy version of the electron that can be produced in particle interactions.

The Muon g-2 experimenters will examine the precession of muons that are subjected to a magnetic field. The main goal is to test the Standard Model's predictions of this value by measuring the precession rate experimentally to a precision of 0.14 parts per million. If there is an inconsistency, it could indicate the Standard Model is incomplete and in need of revision.

The Mu2e experiment will also use an intense beam of muons but will examine a property outside the understanding of the Standard Model: the possibility of a muon-to-electron conversion.

The Standard Model is silent on the prospect of lepton conversions, such as neutrino oscillation or muon-to-electron conversions. Theorists have patched the Standard Model to include the shape-shifting behavior of neutrinos, but there is no deep understanding of why or how these transformations happen. Muon-to-electron conversions go beyond the Standard Model entirely to the realm of New Physics models.

Both the Muon g-2 and Mu2e experiments are several years away from taking data. Currently, the infrastructure for the Muon Campus is being developed.

Last modified: 03/25/2014 |