Seeking an understanding of how our universe works

The DOE Office of Science's High Energy Physics (HEP) seeks to understand how our universe works. It involves exploring the basic nature of space and time itself, discovering the elementary constituents of matter and energy, and probing the interactions between them.

Through the Office of High Energy Physics (HEP), Los Alamos conducts research in particle physics and cosmology to understand the fundamental particles and forces of nature and the evolution and structure of the universe. Current LANL HEP experimental and theoretical efforts are an integral part of the HEP priorities for their Intensity and Cosmic Frontier Programs.

LANL High Energy Physics Portfolio

  • Lattice QCD: LANL Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) team is a leading group calculating matrix elements of both standard model (SM) and beyond the standard model (BSM) interactions within the ground state of nucleons,. Recent work has focused on four fronts: predictions of nucleon electric dipole moments (nEDM) from the leading BSM effects,  axial form factors that are required for precision determination of the neutrino-nucleon scattering cross sections, the pion-nucleon sigma-terms that gives the coupling of scalar mediators of dark matter with nucleons in direct detection experiments, and electromagnetic corrections to beta decays needed for precision extraction of the Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa (CKM) parameters Vud and Vus.   In addition, the LANL team is also making methodological advances using machine learning for improving the ubiquitous signal-to-noise issues plaguing most lattice calculations.
  • Particle physics phenomenology: the team’s research broadly explores physics beyond the Standard Model (BSM), including dark matter, neutrino masses and other neutrino properties, axions and axion-like particles, magnetic monopoles, exotic Higgs physics, etc. They work on model building aspects of BSM physics, and also study predictions for a variety of experiments (dark matter direct detection, rare meson and nuclear decays, accelerator neutrino experiments, neutrinoless double beta decay experiments, and high energy colliders). They also explore more formal aspects of quantum field theory, including the classical and quantum double copies, and entanglement renormalization.

LANL scientists are formulating problems in high-energy physics for solutions on emerging quantum technology.  The effort is currently focused on three problems.  In the first, quantum field theories with an infinite Hilbert space at each point in space is being mapped on to finite-dimensional ‘spin’ systems using ideas from Wilson’s renormalization group.  Using low-dimensional examples, the team has demonstrated that the major features of field theories of interest, such as asymptotic freedom, can be obtained in this ‘qubit regularization’ approach.  The second problem involves mapping the real-time evolution of small number of nucleons on to a quantum device. Finally, in the third arm, we are investigating the use of quantum devices to study foundational issues in quantum mechanics such as information scrambling in black holes and the consistent histories understanding of the rise of a classical world.

In new work, LANL is leading a multi-institutional effort focused on developing methods to accelerate simulations of Lattice QCD and neutrino-nucleus scattering using AI/ML. The multidisciplinary research approach will address a variety of problems in quantum field theories and nuclear many body problems including the generation of gauge configurations that are used in the analysis of all lattice observables, the sign problem in theories with imaginary terms in the interactions, and in the reduction of variance to ameliorate the exponentially growing signal-to-noise problem in correlation functions between nucleons. 

  • LANL is a leader in developing (i) novel adaptive machine learning-based algorithms that can handle time-varying systems to enable autonomous tune up and optimal operation of compact accelerators with applications in many fields (medicine, clean energy, environmental cleanup, security, and industry) and for improved operations of the FRIB accelerator; and (ii) technology for automated growth of alkali antimonide photocathodes and make it amenable for industrial fabrication. 
  • LANL applies its top-in-class accelerator expertise to several HEP priority areas.  These include studying wakefield suppression in high gradient C-band accelerator cavities. LANL leads the project “Wakefield Suppression in High-Gradient C-band Cryogenically-Cooled Accelerating Structures” in collaboration with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The work’s biggest impact is aimed at maturing the concept for the Cool Copper Collider (C3) that is being pioneered at SLAC. A novel higher-order-mode suppression manifold configuration has been proposed and evaluated in excessive simulations with CST Microwave Studio and Omega 3P. A test cavity has been designed for evaluating high gradient performance of a C-band cavity with nickel-chrome absorbers that is the newly proposed absorber material that should be amenable to very high gradients and cryogenic operation. In FY24 the first high gradient testing of the cavity with NiCr absorbers is expected at LANL’s C-band Engineering Research Facility (CERF-NM), the only C-band high gradient research test facility in the United States.
  • LANL currently leads the calibration and cryogenics instrumentation development for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).  We are also the US and International lead for laser-based and source-based calibration systems.  We perform hadron cross section measurements using ProtoDUNE data along with integrating MCNP simulation for improved neutron modeling in Argon. LANL, with UC Davis collaborators, also develops dedicated liquid argon targets to run at LANSCE and at CERN’s nTOF to measure total cross-sections of neutrons in argon at low-energies. 
  • LANL is a leader of the MicroBooNE analysis testing the evidence for Beyond the Standard Model (BSM) physics presented by the LANL-led LSND and MiniBooNE experiments. MicroBooNE is testing whether electron, photon, and/or e+e- processes can explain the anomalies and is also involved in neutrino-Ar cross section measurements. SBND is a follow-on experiment to MicroBooNE, and we are the institutional lead in the design, installation and commissioning of the Short Baseline Neutrino Detector (SBND) photon detection system along with contributions to slow controls.
  • The Coherent Captain Mills (CCM) experiment is a broad dynamic range (10 keV to 1 GeV) liquid argon PMT based detector designed to search for dark sector physics and coherent scattering of neutrinos from the LANSCE Lujan stopped pion source. CCM, designed and built at LANL, began commissioning and beam data running in 2021-2022.   CCM can perform a sensitive search for elastic and inelastic sub-GeV dark matter, ~MeV scale axion-like particles (ALPs), Heavy Neutral Lepton decay, and dark sector coupling to meson decay models that can explain the MiniBooNE anomaly.