Wednesday, August 08, 2012

High Energy Physics Drives Innovation And Technology

I want to bring one ONE very specific example of how high energy physics is driving advancement in a certain technology that WILL have huge impact later on in many parts of our lives.

This report shows the drive for larger, faster, and more importantly, cheaper photodetectors. This was driven by the needs in particle physics detection, especially for the Cerenkov light detection from neutrinos. Current technology is based on photomultiplier tubes and is dominated by almost a single-source supplier - Hamamatsu. And you can imagine, these photomultipliers are prohibitively expensive, especially the ones with higher light detection efficiency. But these PMTs also have "round" cross-section, and in some cases, will have coverage that are not very high.

All of these factors affect the light detection from such high energy physics experiments, and thus, the demand for better detection from such experiments are driving the need for new, better, and cheaper detectors. It is the driver for new innovation and technology, which is what high energy physics does all the time! They often have to build and invent their own detectors each time they build bigger and better colliders!

And guess what? We will benefit from such innovations! The technology invented with the photodetector described in the article will have a myriad of benefits. There are already discussion on the applicability of this technology for PET scanners. In this case, being large, cheap, and fast are three characteristics that are highly desirable.

So if you want to follow the development of something in "real time" as an example on how a demand in high energy physics eventually translates to something that you and I benefit from, here's one that you can track as it happens. The folks at R&D 100 obviously are already aware of the enormous potential for this one.


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