Professor Timothy Chupp has been awarded a 2019 Fundamental Physics Innovation Award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The award recognizes physicists who use innovative technologies to address problems in fundamental physics, and the central research topic for researchers receiving the award is in searching for new physics "beyond the Standard Model." The Standard Model is the current theory that describes fundamental particles, like quarks and electrons, and their interactions. However, there are some observations that cannot be described by the Standard Model, including the characteristic of dark matter and why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. To achieve a more complete understanding of our universe, these types of questions must be investigated.
Professor Chupp's research falls under this broad category. One way his team investigates physics beyond the Standard Model is by comparing precise theoretical predictions from the Standard Model to equally precise measurements of the same quantity. A specific physical system suited to this type of measurement is the muon, which is a heavier cousin of the electron. The muon has intrinsic magnetism, and a property called the magnetic moment quantifies its strength. The muon’s magnetic moment can be calculated using the Standard Model, but the actual value of this quantity might differ. Professor Chupp works to measure this difference, called the “magnetic moment anomaly,” on a team at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).
One challenge of the Fermilab experiment is to obtain an extremely precise understanding of the muon’s environment, especially the strength of the external magnetic field felt by the muons. To do this, measurements of the external magnetic field must be carefully calibrated. One method of calibration employs the nucleus of a Helium-3 atom and combines techniques from nuclear physics with lasers. However, the method relies on referencing the muon measurement to Helium-3. To improve the method, the magnetic properties of Helium-3 should be independently known. With his award, Professor Chupp will collaborate with Professor Klaus Blaum at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, to make the Helium-3 technique independent of references to the muon measurement. This method employs a Penning trap, which measures the magnetic properties of protons after capturing them using a combination of magnetic and electric fields. Once the method has been fully realized, it will become a powerful tool in all precision magnetic field measurements.
Professor Chupp will also be speaking about the muon and its remarkable properties at an upcoming Saturday Morning Physics talk on November 2, 2019.