Understanding the universe: SHiP experiment promises new insights into the world of elementary particles

Researchers from six German scientific institutions contribute significantly to the new experiment at the CERN research center for particle physics with detector developments

16 April 2024


The European Organisation for Nuclear Research CERN in Geneva has announced its intention to carry out a new experiment called SHiP – Search for Hidden Particles – in the search for previously unknown elementary particles. When announcing the new plans,  Dr. Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN, emphasized the importance of this project for understanding the universe.

"The world of elementary particles and the understanding of the cosmos are inextricably linked," emphasised Professor Heiko Lacker from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, founding member of the SHiP experiment and long-standing spokesperson for the six  German research groups in the SHiP collaboration. With the SHiP experiment, the researchers endeavor to find answers to fundamental questions in both the microcosm and the macrocosm.

"Our understanding of the world in its smallest components is still incomplete," said  Professor Caren Hagner from the University of Hamburg. "Many models for a complete description of the universe predict the existence of new particles that have so far escaped our discovery. It is time to find them."

Specialized particle detector

An outstanding feature of the SHiP experiment is that the entire particle beam, which is previously accelerated to almost the speed of light by a particle accelerator, is directed at a massive target object. This generates a significant number of new particles. This approach enables a higher number of particle reactions, which in turn makes very rare processes accessible.

A key element is the Surrounding Background Tagger, a giant particle detector used to identify unwanted background events in the SHiP experiment. This detector, which covers the outer surface of SHiP, was proposed and developed by German research groups.

"Our goal with the SHiP experiment is to create the world's most sensitive instrument of its kind," stated Professor Michael Wurm of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "Thanks to innovative technologies and careful planning, we are confident that SHiP harbors enormous discovery potential."

The ambitious schedule envisages that the experiment will be planned in detail by 2027, followed by construction and assembly. The first data from the experiment will be taken in 2031.

"German researchers are proud to be part of this pioneering experiment," emphasised Professor Marc Schumann from the University of Freiburg. "The collaboration of various universities as well as national and international research institutions shows the enormous potential that lies within German science."

Thanks to their extensive preparatory work for the experiment, the German researchers at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the universities of Mainz, Freiburg, Hamburg, and Siegen, and Forschungszentrum Jülich are in an ideal starting position to play a leading role in the realization of this pioneering project.