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Advanced new generation Muon spectrometers for CERN's ATLAS experiment

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is a pioneering institute that has already made a great impact in the world of electronics. Based in Germany, the Institute is fully dedicated to developments in the field of electronics, having set a world record with their 10-micron precision wire position.

The company carries out fundamental research with a focus on elementary particle physics and astro-particle physics. As part of the ATLAS experiment, MPP required very thin-walled aluminium tubes with high precision. These aluminium tubes, also called drift tubes, form the core of a new generation of mouse detectors in CERN's ATLAS experiment. The previous generation of spectrometers was involved in the detection of the famous Higgs boson in 2012. Peter Higgs was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this in 2013.

Engineers and scientists are currently assembling eight of these modern detectors. Their higher performance will already play a role in the upcoming measurement phase (3rd run from 2022 to 2023). A total of 100 of these detectors will be built over the next three years at MPP and Fermilab USA in cooperation with universities in the US. They will be integrated into ATLAS during the next long shutdown from 2024 to 2027.

Unprecedented precision from MIFA in the new generation of spectrometers

"The new drift tubes have a diameter of 15 mm, only half of the previous models. The signals can now be read within 200 nanoseconds, which is four times faster than before. This means that the drift tubes and their electronics are exposed for less time to the neutron and gamma radiation that is ubiquitous in the ATLAS detector - and can therefore respond to muons 10 times faster," explains Dr Hubert Kroha -project leader MPP.

An important contribution to the high spatial resolution is made by the incredible mechanical precision of the muon chambers. During the construction of the chambers, the positions of the counting wires in the centre of the drift tubes are assembled with an accuracy of 5 micrometres. For comparison: a human hair is about 100 micrometres thick.

These extruded aluminium tubes are subject to very high requirements in terms of thin wall thickness (0.4 mm), roundness and concentricity within 0.1 mm and low surface roughness, all of which are far beyond the regular standards. Here we feared for the manufacturability of such tubes.

MIFA Masterclass Precision Extrusion

"During a Masterclass at the MIFA academy we learned about the special possibilities in precision extrusion at MIFA. Because of this we were able, in good cooperation with MIFA, to construct a tube with the right specifications and realize the next step for our new generation muon spectrometers. We were also able to have the surface treatment carried out by them so that we only had one contact partner."

Register for an online mifa masterclass

Mifa organises these masterclasses for engineers and constructors to share our knowledge about the possibilities of aluminium precision extrusion. During this masterclass you learn to optimally use precision extrusion, so that you can develop a better profile and ultimately a better end product. With –possibly- lower costs thanks to more efficient designs as an additional advantage. You can register for free in an online masterclass via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mifa delivers unprecedented accuracy 

Mifa is all about knowledge and technology. With our extensive machinery and knowledge of aluminium and magnesium profiles, we produce the most accurate profiles. Together with the Max Planck Institute for Physics, we worked on the ATLAS Detector project for Geneva-based CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Mifa’s precision extrusion – with dimensional tolerances of ±0.02 mm – opens up a world of possibilities for the Max Planck Institute for Physics in this project. 

Knowing that the ATLAS project requires unprecedented accuracy for all components, the Max Planck Institute for Physics specifically selected Mifa to manufacture the aluminium profiles. The design requires a wall thickness of 0.4 mm, with barely any permitted deviation (the usual standards for extrusion of aluminium profiles often allow deviations of 0.15 mm). Mifa’s ability to extrude to an accuracy of ±0.02 mm therefore made it the ideal partner for Max Planck Institute for Physics for this challenging project.  

Mifa Surface Treatment ensures exceptional purity in surface treatment 

But besides the precision Mifa offers, there’s another reason why Max Planck Institute for Physics chose us. In order to protect the aluminium profile, the product undergoes a surface treatment – a chemical processing of the metal surface. The layer that goes over the profile, called Surtec, primarily ensures that the profile is protected against corrosion. 

Mifa not only has knowledge of machining, precision extrusion, and assembly but is also able to take care of the entire surface treatment process fully in-house thanks to Mifa Surface Treatment’s fully automated large and small production lines. This ultimately saves time and costs in the overall process.

No matter the objective, requirement, or preference: we offer a suitable surface treatment and have employees with a great deal of experience. Read more about it here: Mifa Surface Treatment

Special packaging

Mifa collaborated with the Max Planck Institute for Physics to develop a special type of packaging to protect the high-tech profiles during transport, ensuring that all products remain perfectly in place. 

Feel free to contact us

In addition to precision extrusion and surface treatment, we offer even more in-house technologies and techniques to produce profiles, components, and products. If you would like to find out more about what we can offer, please feel free to contact our sales department. We’d be happy to help you. 

If you’d like to know more about the ATLAS Detector project, you’ll find more information here.

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