Detection of Trapped Antihydrogen

The ALPHA experiment is an international effort to produce, trap, and perform precision spectroscopic measurements on antihydrogen (the bound state of a positron and an antiproton). Based at the Antiproton Decelerator (AD) facility at CERN, the ALPHA experiment has recently magnetically confined antihydrogen atoms for the first time. A crucial element in the observation of trapped antihydrogen is ALPHA’s silicon vertexing detector. This detector contains sixty silicon modules arranged in three concentric layers, and is able to determine the three-dimensional location of the annihilation of an antihydrogen atom by reconstructing the trajectories of the produced annihilation

This dissertation focuses mainly on the methods used to reconstruct the annihilation location. Specifically, the software algorithms used to identify and extrapolate charged particle tracks are presented along with the routines used to estimate the annihilation location from the convergence of the identified tracks. It is shown that these methods can determine the annihilation location with a spatial resolution between about 0.6 to 0.8 cm (depending on the coordinate being measured). Furthermore, a robust analysis to identify and reduce cosmic ray background events is described. The cosmic ray background can obscure the trapped antihydrogen signal, and its suppression leads to a significant increase in the annihilation detection sensitivity. The background suppression analysis involves examining the reconstructed detector event based on several selection criteria, including: the number of charged particle tracks, the radial vertex position, and a fit of a straight line to the event hit positions. By carefully optimizing these criteria, (99.54 ± 0.02)% of cosmic ray events are rejected, while (64.4 ± 0.1)% of antihydrogen annihilation events are retained. Finally, the experimental results demonstrating the first-ever magnetic confinement of antihydrogen atoms are presented. These results rely heavily on the silicon detector, and as such, the role of the annihilation vertex reconstruction is emphasized.

Richard A. Hydomako, PhD Thesis, University of Calgary (2011)