vahsen research team

Sven Vahsen and his team with a prototype detector (photo by Stephen Dye)

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Assistant Professor of Physics Sven E. Vahsen received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and additional funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Energy will provide $309,000 in funding over three years, which will enable Vahsen’s group to participate in the Belle and Belle II experiments at the KEK particle accelerator laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan. Vahsen’s group is participating in studies of “CP-violation,” or subtle differences in the behavior of matter and anti-matter.

The Department of Homeland Security is funding the third year of a project that Vahsen’s group is developing for a new type of elementary particle detector that can record the trajectories of electrically charged particles in three dimensions. This ongoing project has already brought almost $500,000 in funding to UH Mānoa.

While advances in this area are needed for future experiments in particle physics, the same underlying technology may also enable the directional detection of neutral particles, such as dark matter particles left over from the Big Bang, and neutrons from nuclear material. This is possible because these neutral particles occasionally knock out atomic nuclei from atoms in the detector. These charged nuclei then leave tiny tracks, millimeters long, just long enough to be seen with a highly precise detector.

These awards were enabled by previous support from the National Science Foundation and Homeland Security, and startup funding provided by the UH vice president for research, UH Mānoa vice chancellor for research and graduate education and the dean of the College of Natural Sciences

—Adapted from a UH Mānoa news release.

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