The Higgs boson is the fundamental particle associated with the Higgs field, a field that gives mass to other fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks. A particle’s mass determines how much it resists changing its speed or position when it encounters a force. Not all fundamental particles have mass. The photon, which is the particle of light and carries the electromagnetic force, has no mass at all.
The Higgs boson was proposed in 1964 by Peter Higgs, François Englert, and four other theorists to explain why certain particles have mass. Scientists confirmed its existence in 2012 through the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. This discovery led to the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to Higgs and Englert.
Scientists are now studying the characteristic properties of the Higgs boson to determine if it precisely matches the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics. If the Higgs boson deviates from the model, it may provide clues to new particles that only interact with other Standard Model particles through the Higgs boson and thereby lead to new scientific discoveries.
DOE Office of Science: Contributions to Higgs Boson Research
The LHC at CERN is the highest-energy particle collider in the world. It is currently the only place scientists can create and study Higgs bosons. The DOE Office of Science (SC) contributed important accelerator magnets to help construct the LHC. DOE also supports many scientists, engineers, and technicians in the LHC program. The LHC hosts four large experimental particle detectors, two of which are partially supported by SC’s Office of High Energy Physics: ATLAS and CMS. U.S. researchers account for approximately 20% and 25% of the ATLAS and CMS collaborations, respectively. They also play leadership roles in many aspects of each experiment. These experiments are making precise measurements of the Higgs boson’s properties to determine if it matches the Standard Model predictions or offers clues to new physics, exploring new particles and their interactions, and identifying the new physics of dark matter.
Higgs Boson Facts
- The Higgs boson gets its mass just like other particles—from its own interactions with the Higgs field.
- There may be more than one Higgs boson. One theoretical model of new physics predicts five Higgs bosons.
- Fundamental particles in our universe acquire mass through their interactions with the Higgs field.
- The Higgs boson can be a unique portal to finding signs of dark matter due to its own distinctive characteristics and properties.
Resources and Related Terms
- Office of High Energy Physics
- The United States at the LHC
- National Science Foundation
- The Big Questions: Sally Dawson on the Higgs Boson
- Symmetry Magazine: Searching for Higgs boson twins
- Science Highlight: Computers Help Scientists Understand the Particles that Make Up Atoms
Contributors: Michael Cooke (DOE)
Scientific terms can be confusing. DOE Explains offers straightforward explanations of key words and concepts in fundamental science. It also describes how these concepts apply to the work that the Department of Energy’s Office of Science conducts as it helps the United States excel in research across the scientific spectrum.