University of Hawaii System newsletter

Physics Professor Receives Homeland Security Grant

Posted on | September 30, 2011 | Comments Off on Physics Professor Receives Homeland Security Grant

Vahsen’s research group

Vahsen’s research group with the prototype detector.

Mānoa Assistant Professor of Physics Sven E. Vahsen received $174,820 in funding from the Department of Homeland Security. Vahsen’s award is for continued development of a new type of particle detector for Homeland Security, future particle physics experiments and dark matter searches. The ongoing project is expected to bring in excess of $500,000 to Mānoa.

Vahsen and his collaborators are working on a detector that can record the trajectories of electrically charged particles in three dimensions, with unprecedented precision. 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.

Read the news release.