The Fermilab Detector R&D program revolves around a series of institutional capabilities, typically not available elsewhere. The types of facilities that contribute to detector research include: the Silicon Detector Facility, extensive experience in Cryogenic and Vacuum Engineering, a unique High Energy Test Beam Facility, and a talented staff to support them.

Silicon Detector Facility

The Silicon Detector Facility (SiDet) contains about 5,000 ft2 of class 10,000 clean room space dedicated to the fine scale assembly of detector modules, micro-bonding and large scale assembly of complete silicon trackers. Within this space, there are clean room benches that exceed class 1,000 and a 200 ft2 internal class 100 clean room. An almost equal amount of space is available adjacent to the clean rooms for assembly and test stands.

There are numerous tools for precision construction. These include Coordinate Measuring Machines of various precision optics, which are used for many applications from fine assembly to final alignment of assembled detectors. The smaller CMMs are used for module assembly that is typical for detector R&D. There are several K&S wire bonders.

SiDet also provides ASIC support with bonding capabilities. The flip-chip bonder has been used to for bonding the SPI 3D ASIC to pixel sensors for testing. This provides fast turnaround on prototype devices.

In addition to the assembly facilities, there are significant testing capabilities at SiDet. There are several probe stations including a new automated probe station, purchased in 2011, that can handle 8” wafers and has a temperature-controlled chuck. The CCD characterization facility has multiple liquid nitrogen cooled test stations. Nearby are test stands for scintillating fiber multi-pixel PMT and SiPM characterization. Supporting equipment including electronics, ovens, vacuum equipment, robotic glue dispenser, chillers, cryo-coolers, and other temperature-control devices.

Lab 3 Clean Rooms

A separate set of clean rooms at Lab 3 cover about 3000ft2 of Class 10,000 space. The facility was upgraded for the assembly of detectors for Dark Matter searches with an inner clean space of 120ft2 that exceeds class 100, a low radioactivity clean water supply, and an alpha-counting facility.

Material Structural Layup Facility

Layup is done with carbon fiber, PEEK and Eccsorb. This capability has been used in the detector R&D program to develop prototypes of very low mass structures for a lepton collider tracker. It is now being used to develop carbon fiber rod structures for a future CMS Tracking Trigger upgrade. A large effort is ongoing on Thermal Pyrolithic Graphite (TPG) for the CMS tracker upgrade. We have developed an encapsulation technique to make the TPG robust.

Cryogenics and Vacuum Instrumentation

This group has extensive experience in vacuum systems and cryogenics for experimental apparatus. The group has been responsible for implementing much of the Liquid Argon (LAr) R&D at Fermilab, including assembly, debugging and maintenance of the Liquid Argon Materials Test Stand, and many parts of the Liquid Argon Purity Demonstrator. They also assembled and commissioned LAr Distillation column, developed in collaboration with Princeton.

The group operates several facilities of within its building:

  • Materials Test Stand for study of impact of materials on LAr purity
  • Cosmic Ray Test Stand for study of TPC and TPS electronics
  • LAr Distillation column for providing a source of clean, isotopically pure Ar

The Cryogenics and Vacuum Instrumentation group has also provided critical support to the development of the COUPP bubble chambers. All of the smaller bubble chambers have been operated in this facility and these chambers have provided invaluable support in the development of larger detectors. Other small detectors such as ArgoNeut and the upcoming SCENE detector have also been assembled and first operated and tested in the Cryo group’s facility prior to installation at the eventual experimental site.

Scintillation Detector Development

The Scintillation Detector Development Laboratory (SDD) in Lab 6 consists of a chemistry laboratory with three hoods and ample bench space, an analytical laboratory, and two optics rooms for light yield and optical fiber measurements. Several new instruments have been purchased over the past three years to upgrade the analytical lab including UV/Visible light spectrophotometer that is used for testing the response of plastic scintillator and a Gas Chomatograph coupled to a Mass Selective Detector (GC/MS) for analysis of liquid scintillator.

The Extrusion Center in Lab 5 houses the FNAL/NICADD Extrusion Line and the small, R&D extrusion line. The FNAL/NICADD Extrusion Line is used to prepare scintillator in large quantities. It normally processes polystyrene pellets at a rate of 75 Kg/hour. The R&D extrusion line is used for tests of small quantities of materials and for generic R&D such as the neutron-sensitive scintillator and the high Z scintillator. Work is progressing now on developing a method for embedding wavelength shifting fiber within the extruded scintillator.

Wire Chamber Winding

Wire chamber winding area in Lab 6.

Thin Film Group

The Thin Film group provides vacuum deposition and sputtering, including two vacuum systems with a magnetron sputtering gun specifically built and dedicated to optical fiber sputtering. The group also has two Programmable Vibration Resistant Diamond Polishers for “Ice Polishing” of optical fibers and connectors. Additional capabilities include UHV Bake-out area which includes 1200C hydrogen degassing, Plasma Oven Cleaning, RGA, and Out Gassing Study area.

In 2011, the Thin Film Group completed an evaporative coating facility to support the Large Area Picosecond Photon Detector project at Argonne. This facility is substantially wider and taller than the other vacuum coating chambers, to accommodate the 8” square microchannel plates for the LAPPD project.

Detector Simulation Computing Cluster

The Detector Simulation Computing Cluster (DETSIM) is used for development of linear collider detector simulation capabilities and deployment of detector simulation applications, including both ILC (early in the three year review period) and muon collider (FY11 and FY12). It provides a flexible development environment matched to the needs of such simulations, combined with access to large storage which is essential for detector optimization studies and analysis. The entire collection of the detector simulation software tools is installed and supported there and at the same time it is used as a gateway to the grid computing resources.


Research Techniques Seminar
These seminars cover technical topics including detector R&D, construction and calibration methods, test beam results, as well as data analysis methods and simulation.


Petra Merkel
  • Petra Merkel
  • General Detector R&D Technical Coordinator
  • Office: 630.840.2119
  • email: petra@fnal.gov

Join the Community

Interested parties are invited to join the 'detectors@fnal.gov' email list. This email list is used to inform parties interested in detector research at Fermilab, and elsewhere. Notices of upcoming meetings, talks, and conferences will be sent out to this list. In addition, periodic summaries of the work being done at Fermilab will be sent.

To subscribe to this list, send an email message to the address listserv@fnal.gov, with the following line in the body of the message:
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If you have any questions, feel free to contact Petra Merkel.