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The ATLAS muon system

The ATLAS muon spectrometer
The ATLAS muon spectrometer (Photo: CERN)

Muons are a type of particle related to electrons. They arise out of the decay of particles produced by the collision of protons in the center of the ATLAS detector. The muons' signals enable inferences about which particles came out of the impact of the protons.

For that, the scientists use the muon spectrometer. It is the outermost part of the ATLAS detector and measures the energy and trajectory of the muons with high accuracy. To this end, the particles are deflected in a strong magnetic field, which is generated by gigantic superconducting magnetic coils. Through precise analysis of muon tracks, among other data, the scientists were able to discover the long-sought Higgs boson.

In order to measure the muon tracks, the physicists use so-called muon drift tube chambers (MDT). These consist of several layers of drift tubes, which are filled with a gas mixture of argon and carbon dioxide. Through reactions with the argon atoms, the muons leave behind tracks in the drift tubes. By means of a high voltage of around 3,000 volts between the tube wall and a central counting wire, these tracks are registered and converted into electronic signals.

The muon spectrometer is also responsible for the enormous size of the ATLAS detector: With around 1,150 MDT chambers and more than 350,000 drift tubes, it measures the paths of the muons that pass through – over a total area the size of a footbal field, to an accuracy of less than one-hundredth of a millimeter. The chambers were developed at the Institute and were in large part constructed there. All of the chambers were installed in the underground ATLAS hall in 2005 and 2006.

Muon chambers for the future

Under construction: Modern versions of the ATLAS muon chambers
Under construction: Modern versions of the ATLAS muon chambers (Photo: B. Wankerl)

The discovery of the Higgs boson was a major step for particle physics. Yet the physicists involved with the ATLAS experiment want the particle collisions to coax out further exciting insights. For that, they need more data, and therefore more collisions of protons.

In the coming years, the LHC will be upgraded to meet that need. At the updated High Luminosity (HL)-LHC, not long from how, significantly more proton packets than before will be accelerated and brought to collision. Due to the higher irradiation, the components of the ATLAS detector must also be upgraded. The MPP is currently developing a new, improved design for the muon chambers as well as new electronic components.

More information on the ATLAS muon system group

Group members

name function extension www

Bruce, Catriona

Student 591

Cieri, Davide, Dr.

Scientist 358

Duda, Dominik, Dr.

Scientist 256

Ecker, Katharina

PhD Student 220

Gadow, Philipp

PhD Student 220

Hönle, Andreas

PhD Student 376

Junggeburth, Johannes

PhD Student 226

Klaar, Rabea

Student 454

Kortner, Oliver, PD Dr.

Scientist 240

Kortner, Sandra, Dr.

Scientist 288

Krauss, Dominik

PhD Student 559

Kroha, Hubert, Prof. Dr.

Scientist 435

Köhler, Nicolas

PhD Student 226

Maschek, Stefan

PhD Student 358

Popov, Ivan


Rendel, Marian

Student 559

Richter, Robert, Dr.

Scientist 358

Rieck, Patrick, Dr.

Scientist 256

Röhrig, Rainer

PhD Student 226

Schermer, Nicole


Schmidt-Sommerfeld, Korbinian

PhD Student 376

Selle, Patrick

Student 560

Sinner, Maxim

Student 561

Soyk, Daniel

Engineering 374

Teshima, Makoto

Student 560

Walbrecht, Verena

PhD Student 220

Zinonos, Zinonas, Ph.D.

Scientist 559

External members

Sergey Abovyan, Yerevan
Varuzhan Danielyan, Yerevan
Dr. Sebastian Nowak, Wien

Events and meetings

Currently, there are no events or meetings.

Key publications

F. Bauer, W. Blum, U. Bratzler, H. Dietl, S. Kotov, H. Kroha, Th. Lagouri, A. Manz, A. Ostapchuk, R. Richter, S. Schael, S. Chouridou, M. Deile, O. Kortner, A. Staude, R. Stroehmer, T. Trefzger
Construction and Test of the Precision Drift Chambers for the ATLAS Muon Spectrometer
MPI-PhE/2000-29, October 2000, IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, Vol. 48, No. 3 (2001) 302
DOI: 10.1109/23.940070

M. Deile, J. Dubbert, S. Horvat, O. Kortner, H. Kroha, A. Manz, S. Mohrdieck-Moeck,
F. Rauscher, R. Richter, A. Staude, W. Stiller
Resolution and Efficiency of the ATLAS Muon Drift-Tube Chambers at High Background Rates,
MPP-2004-042, April 2004
Nuclear Instruments and Methods  A 535 (2004) 212
DOI: 10.1016/j.nima.2004.07.193

B. Bittner, J. Dubbert, O. Kortner, H. Kroha, F. Legger, R. Richter,
O. Biebel, A. Engl, R. Hertenberger, F. Rauscher,
Development of Muon Drift-Tube Detectors for High-Luminosity Upgrades of the Large Hadron Collider,
MPP-2009-321, June 2009,
Nuclear Instruments and Methods A 617 (2010) 169
DOI: 10.1016/j.nima.2009.06.086

H. Kroha, B. Bittner, J. Dubbert, O. Kortner, A. Manfredini, S. Ott, R. Richter, P. Schwegler, D. Zanzi,
O. Biebel, A. Engl, R. Hertenberger, A. Zibell
Construction and Test of a Full Prototype Drift-Tube Chamber for the Upgrade of the ATLAS Muon Spectrometer at High LHC Luminosities
MPP-2012-161, August 2012
Nuclear Instruments and Methods A 718 (2013) 427.

P. Schwegler, O. Kortner, H. Kroha, R. Richter
Improvement of the L1 Trigger for the ATLAS Muon Spectrometer at High Luminosity
MPP-2012-161, August 2012
Nuclear Instruments and Methods  A 718 (2013) 245.   

C. Ferretti, H. Kroha,
Upgrades of the ATLAS Muon Spectrometer With sMDT Chambers
MPI report, MPP-2015-136, June 2015
Nuclear Instruments and Methods A 824 (2016) 538