A new experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) seeks to detect the long theorized magnetic monopole. In 1931, physicist Paul Dirac showed that our theories of electromagnetism allow for the existence of a solitary magnetic charge. Just as protons and electrons represent unique electric charges (positive and negative), magnetic monopoles should similarly exist as manifestations of magnetic charge. Despite our best efforts, however, we always observe magnetism as having two poles, North and South. The Monopole and Exotics Detector at the LHC (MoEDAL) is geared towards detecting the individual magnetic particles responsible for each pole.
Magnetic monopoles are believed to be massive particles which lose energy at a very rapid rate. MoEDAL detectors are specially designed such that a monopole passing through the detector would leave behind a track as it is slowed down and eventually trapped in an aluminum detector. The magnetic charge could later be detected in the trap via a series of scans using magnetometers, devices designed to detect magnetic fields in materials.
Early science results from the LHC have found no evidence confirming the existence of the magnetic monopole. These results do not eliminate the possibility of its existence, however, and instead allow scientists to constrain the allowed mass ranges for the monopole. As more data is collected and analyzed, improved statistics will provide further constraints on the particle, allowing scientists to refine their experiments and hone in on the elusive magnetic monopole.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Julia Gonski, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, working with the high energy experimental physics research group on the ATLAS experiment for her expertise and insight on the topic.
Managing Correspondent: Tarraneh Eftekhari
Media Coverage: MoEDAL closes in on search for magnetic particle – CERN