In nuclear and particle physics, calorimetry refers to the detection or particles, and measurement of their properties, particularly energy. There are a wide variety of types, but they all have in common the feature that the process is destructive to the particle itself in the sense that once passed through a calorimetric device, the particle cannot go on to be detected by a secondary device.

Calorimetric particle detection was pioneered shortly after WWII, as scintillation counters came into use. The combination of use of certain crystals with the new invention of the photomultiplier tube made possible a new age of measurement of particle properties, accellerating experimental particle physics to new heights.

As the 'energy frontier' of particle physics was pushed higher and higher by new generations of particle accellerators, these 'shower counters' or 'calorimeters' as they are now called gradually became more and more the cornerstone of experiments. The old method of examining the curvature of a particle's bubble chamber track became harder as energies increased. (Curvature is inversely proportional to momentum, and momentums were getting huge.) To a great extent, the high accuracy of these devices has satiated the need for new ways to measure the energy/momentum four-vectors of particles.

Moreover, as the energy frontier marches forward, the physics processes of interest became more and more rare, and it became necessary to trigger the equipment when the 'signature' of a particular process was detected. The new technology of the developing field of Calorimetry provided the much needed equipment. Also, the information of interest became not what a bubble chamber photograph would tell you, but rather, measurements of more global event characteristics, such as 'missing' energy and the production of certain patterns of particle jets. The cool thing about these scintillators is that they provide this information nearly instantaneously, making instrument triggering more functional than ever.

Recently, almost every graduate student who has written a thesis in experimental particle physics has had to examine calorimeter data. This new paradigm has been the key to many new discoveries in this field.

Cal`o*rim"e*try (?), n. Physics

Measurement of the quantities of heat in bodies.


© Webster 1913.

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