Japanese technologies behind Nobel Prize in Physics

Japanese technologies behind Nobel Prize

20131011_nobelprize_yomiurishimbun

Friday, October 11, 2013 – 10:33

The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

Two European researchers have won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, but behind the achievement were Japanese companies’ advanced technologies and Japanese researchers’ contributions. Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain were awarded the Nobel Prize on Tuesday for uncovering the mystery of why matter has mass. However, what played a decisive role in winning the prize by providing proof to their theory was the discovery of the so-called Higgs boson particle, in which Japanese companies and researchers have made a huge contribution.The discovery of the Higgs boson particle took place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where microparticle protons zip at near light-speed around a 27-kilometer underground ring beneath Switzerland and France.

Japan’s Furukawa Electric Co. developed superconducting cable that is considered to be the heart of the equipment.

When the physicists’ winning the Nobel Prize was announced in a TV news flash, people gave a cheer and applauded at Furukawa Electric’s head office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Akira Takagi, 48, who was a leading member of the team that developed the cable, said he feels honoured the team was able to contribute to the research. “I’d like to share the joy with my colleagues,” Takagi said.

A simulated collision between protons at the LHC creates a condition that can be compared to the time immediately after the birth of the universe, and superconducting magnets covered with a cable made of a copper compound is technology considered to be central to proton acceleration.

Impeccably clean cable was a prerequisite for the creation of powerful magnetic field, but thin cable easily became disconnected in the early stage of development because of oil and other impure substances that attach to it.

What Takagi and others found as a solution to the problem is a household dishwasher. “We confirmed we were able to get rid of even tiny substances from the cable using a conventional dishwasher,” Takagi said.

In 1993, a US plan to build a particle accelerator, which preceded the LHC, was called off due to a shortage of funds. The scale of Furukawa Electric’s development team seeking to join the US project could have been reduced because of the cancellation.

However, the company won a contract to develop the superconducting cable for the LHC several years later as the company president said the firm should win the contract even if the development falls into the red. Takagi said their hard work finally bore fruit Tuesday.

Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. is a developer of a detector that figures out in which direction a particle flies and a sensor that measures a particle’s energy.

Yoshitaka Ishikawa, 55, a member of the Hamamatsu-based company’s development team, said it was a continuing process of trial and error to develop the devices.

“We received new demands each time we brought samples to researchers, but we worked hard, and were won over by their enthusiasm,” Ishikawa said.

‘Significant contribution’

More than 100 Japanese were among about 3,000 scientists who participated in the search for the Higgs boson using the ATLAS detector.

At a press conference Tuesday evening, Prof. Shoji Asai of the University of Tokyo said, “Japanese researchers and companies made a significant contribution.” Asai led a group of Japanese scientists who analysed ATLAS’ data and helped confirm the existence of the Higgs boson.

The scientists developed an analytical method to narrow down the search for elementary particles made of shattered Higgs bosons, the traces of which disappeared quickly.

To detect these traces, the scientists sent protons colliding with each other about 1,100 trillion times in two years. Their research to find these traces required painstaking persistence.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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