Bengaluru: India stands on the brink of making a significant contribution to the world of High Energy Physics through the International Linear Collider (ILC). The Linear Collider will study the mysterious Higgs Boson in much greater detail than its predecessor, CERN's multi billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, which is situated in Geneva, Switzerland.
India's role in this will be to expertise on crucial technology - the superconducting radiofrequency cavities, within which the particles are accelerated and made to collide. The nation has been developing this technology for a number of other purposes as well.
The world community has chosen this as the technology for the ILC, thereby propelling India’s role through her expertise. Japan's scientific community has expressed a strong interest in hosting the ILC on the outskirts of Tokyo and is awaiting approval from its government.
The country's inroad into this project is being pioneered by Professor Rohini Godbole, from the Centre for High Energy Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, Amit Roy, Director of Inter-University Accelerator Centre (IUAC), New Delhi, and Atul Gurtu, Particle Physicist from TIFR, Mumbai as well as scientists from Indore and Kolkata.
Professor Godbole, who set up the ILC India forum, has been organizing meetings and workshops to consolidate the Indian effort and the International Linear Collider conference was actually hosted by IISc a couple of months ago.
"The whole world is united in its view that the International Linear Collider is one of the biggest facilities in high energy Physics," said Professor Godbole. “One of the most remarkable aspects of the ILC is that it has been planned from the bottom up, put together by the High Energy Physics community, who will then pitch it to the various governments.” It is, in that sense, a truly global project.”
One of the most important areas of research in high energy physics is that of the cavities required for the accelerator. Professor Godbole is a member of the International Detector Advisory Board, in her capacity as a theorist, and did, as part of the Board, submit a summary to the European Strategy Group, which subsequently produced the European Strategy Report.
Interestingly, the International Linear Collider is a low energy version of the LHC. The obvious question, then, is why spend billions on a collider that is less powerful? Very simply, it is because the Linear Collider, low energy et al, is capable of measurements that are far more precise.
On July 4, 2012, the scientists at CERN made a historic discovery. They claimed to have found a particle that looked a lot like the much sought after, highly elusive Higgs Boson — the missing link in the understanding of the Standard Model, which explains fundamental particles and forces.
The Higgs Boson, claimed scientists, would explain how particles get their mass. Professor Rohini, who is part of the worldwide community of theorists who have been working tirelessly to analyse the LHC findings. She has been working on the Higgs Boson since 1976 and has written around 50 papers on the subject.
"When the Higgs Boson was discovered, it seemed as if there were no more questions - the puzzle was complete," she said. "However, much lies outside the framework of the standard model. For instance, it doesn't explain the assymetry of matter and antimatter." The linear collider, it is hoped, will answer questions that have been baffling scientists for years.
India has already made a remarkable foray into the field of astrophysics, led by Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Astrophysics, through partnering the Thirty Metre Telescope (the world’s largest), situated atop Mount Mauna Kea in Hawaii. DC was the first to report this on December 1, 2011.
The ILC project, however, is still in its nascent stages, awaiting sanction from the Japanese government. “CERN said it will stick with the LHC, because it already has it, so the various governments of the world will have to come together to fund the ILC,” said Professor Godbole. However, she added that it is much too early to say what India’s financial contributions will be.