Belle II: search for physics beyond LHC
Belle II, the super-B factory experiment seeks to reveal new weak interactions in the flavour sector and discover new strongly interacting particles.
The key physics questions to be addressed by SuperKEKB and Belle II are:
When the universe began, with the Big Bang, there was nothing but energy. There were no atoms or molecules or planets or stars, just energy. As the early universe cooled this energy formed matter, the electrons and protons and neutrons that you and I are made of. In fact everything we see and interact with is made of matter - our bodies, the air we breath, the food we eat, even the computer you’re reading this on are all made of matter.
But the story isn’t quite so simple, because matter has a counterpart called antimatter. Every type of matter particle (e.g. an electron, or a proton) has an antimatter counterpart (an antielectron for the electron, an antiproton for the proton, and so on). Matter and antimatter behave exactly the same as each other, the only difference is their electric charge. So while an electron has a negative electric charge, an antielectron has a positive electric charge.
Nature in general likes to be symmetric. So when the Big Bang happened it seems natural that it would have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. The problem is that mater and antimatter don’t like being around each other - when matter and antimatter come into contact with one another they annihilate in a flash of energy. So if the Big Bang had created equal amounts of matter and antimatter, then each matter particle would have collided with an antimatter particle and annihilated into energy, leaving behind no matter or antimatter, and the universe would be filled with nothing but energy.
Clearly, this isn’t what happened. We live in a universe made of matter, the Earth is made of matter, you and I are made of matter. So, for some reason, the Big Bang must have created more matter than antimatter. All the antimatter particles annihilated with matter particles but, because there was more matter than antimatter, there would have been some matter particles left over after all the antimatter had been annihilated. This leftover matter is what went on to form the universe we live in today.
One of the questions physicists seek to answer is why was there was an imbalance of matter and antimatter at the beginning of the universe? Experiments performed by particle physicists in the past have already discovered a small asymmetry in nature, called charge-parity violation, which shows that nature has a slight preference for matter over antimatter. However, this imbalance is too small to explain how our universe came into being, there must be more asymmetry that we have not yet discovered. By studying the behaviour of particles at BelleII, and other modern experiments, we can search for other sources of asymmetry in nature and work towards understanding the origins of our universe and ourselves.
In 2012, experiments at the LHC, which is the highest energy particle accelerator, found a signal for the expected and long-awaited particle called the Higgs boson.
This discovery was recognized by a Nobel Prize for the theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert in 2013.
The Higgs particle completes the core theory of particle physics called the Standard Model.
The interactions of the Higgs boson (sometimes referred to as the “God Particle” in the popular press) is responsible for the masses of the other elementary particles such as the electron.
Most theories of particle physics that go beyond the Standard Model and attempt to explain the various mysteries of the universe predict that the Higgs boson is not alone and is part of a whole family of new particles.
There could be additional particles that are uncharged like the Standard Model Higgs and one that is electrically charged, the charged Higgs.
These additional Higgs-like particles can be searched for at the LHC where they can be directly produced and at Belle II where they are produced in an indirect fashion. In particular, Belle II has the best sensitivity to the charged Higgs particles in special and interesting B meson decay modes with tau leptons and neutrinos.
[The tau lepton is a much heavier cousin of the electron and muon particles.]
These tau lepton decay modes are reconstructed by first reconstructing a single B meson and then examining the decay products of the opposite anti-B meson. Again this is an important strength of the Belle II experiment and distinguishes it from other experiments.
Two different approaches to finding new particles: a) the energy frontier approach, b) the luminosity frontier approach.
Dark matter has remained a source of intrigue among scientists since its conception nearly a century ago. It is known to comprise roughly 80% of the matter in the universe, making it five times more abundant than visible matter. Its composition, however, has yet to be unveiled. While the Standard Model of particle physics is a fairly accurate portrait of visible matter in the universe, it cannot encompass dark matter; this must be incorporated by physics beyond the Standard Model.
One such extension suggests that dark matter may be composed of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). The primary motivation for this type of dark matter is its ability to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry in cosmic ray energy spectra. Should this fail to be the case, however, there is only one other proposed solution which has withstood the test of time. These are axions and axion-like particles. Considering the vast quantity of dark matter in the universe, it is likely composed of a complicated system of particles as is the case for the Standard Model. This suggests that dark matter particles would carry force and that dark forces would be a crucial component of the dark sector. Such is the appeal of axionic dark matter.
One force carrier is the dark photon. As suggested by the name, it has a mathematical structure which is similar to the Standard Model photon with which it mixes. This mixing allows the dark photon to take the place of a Standard Model photon, opening up a massive array of electromagnetic interactions involving the dark photon. Put simply, the dark photon can potentially interact with leptons (a class of well established Standard Model particles which include electrons and muons) in ways which allow for nice detection signatures as shown in the left figure. Additionally, the dark photon may decay into other undetectable dark matter particles, providing scientists with a much more difficult detection signature like as shown in the right figure. Despite the difficulties, efforts are underway within the Belle II collaboration to set up special triggers for a “mono-photon” signature.
At SuperKEKB, high energy electrons and positrons will collide to produce a slew of processes; the overwhelming majority of which will result in a pair of final state leptons. During operation of the original KEKB collider, these were largely assumed to be background; uninteresting throwaway processes. However, with the potential of a dark sector’s existence, comes a new life for these high energy lepton pairs, any one of which may have decayed from a dark photon rather than a Standard Model photon.
Along with the dark photon, scientists in the Belle and Belle II collaborations have been searching for the dark Higgs boson. Similar in nature to the Standard Model Higgs boson, this particle would allow for certain mathematical symmetries to break, providing mass to the dark photon or possibly even other axion-like particles. As is the case with the dark photon, the dark Higgs would potentially decay to pairs of Standard Model leptons which are wildly abundant in SuperKEKB collisions.
When performing a search for the dark photon, scientists must consider two parameters: the dark photon mass and the mixing strength between the dark photon and the Standard Model photon. The mixing strength here indicates the likelihood that a dark photon will be responsible for the detected lepton pair rather than a Standard Model photon. At present, a large portion of this parameter space has been ruled out, as shown in the solid coloured region of the figure above.
Attempts to find the dark photon have come in many forms, though none seem as promising as a search at what will be the world’s most luminous electron-positron collider, SuperKEKB. From 1999 until 2010, the original KEKB collider allowed scientists with the Belle collaboration to sift through nearly 1/ab of collected data. Now, with the upgrade to SuperKEKB and the new Belle II detector, scientists will have 50 times as much data to employ in their endeavours. With increased data comes access to previously unexplored parameter space, hence the excitement of SuperKEKB and Belle II. Projections on dark photon exploration in the Belle II collaboration have already been made and they far surpass other dark photon searches worldwide, as can be seen in Figure 3. This is largely due to the “clean” signal that electron-positron collisions will provide, along with having a known center-of-mass energy for those collisions.
The matter that forms our world is fundamentally made of particles called quarks that are held together by sticky particles, the appropriately named gluons. The force binding together these fundamental constituent is the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, together with gravity, electromagnetism and the weak force.
As its name implies this force is the strongest force of the four. Quantum Chromodynamics, familiarly called QCD is the modern theory of the strong interaction.
It is one of the great theoretical challenges facing physicists understanding how the tiniest elementary particles give rise to most of the mass in the visible universe.
Physicists have made huge strides in understanding the workings of quarks and gluons, but a number of puzzling mysteries remain. It is unclear how quarks and gluons contribute for example to the mass of the protons and neutrons in atoms.
Experiments at particle accelerators in the '50s and '60s showed that protons and neutrons are merely representatives of a large family of particles now called hadrons. A hadron is any composite particle that is made from quarks, anti-quarks and gluons.
Among the most challenging and fascinating goals of modern physics are the endeavours to understand how the spectrum and structure of hadrons emerge from the forces among their fundamental constituents and to find out whether there are new forms of matter.
Belle II will reveal the building blocks of matter in greater detail than ever before and it could help physicists better understand how quarks and gluons interact.