The KTH research that made the greatest impact
Which KTH research made the greatest impact in the world last year? The search for the unknown universe of matter and studies on how the behaviour of the Sun affects our high-tech life on earth were at the top of the list.
KTH research in two major international studies – the continuing experiments in the wake of the Higgs particle detection and advanced measurements of space storms - were the most cited research works from 2016. KTH contributed in varying degrees to these projects that resulted in hundreds of scientific articles last year.
The most high-profile research that was co-authored by KTH researchers are among the 225 most cited in the world, according to the database ’Web of Science’, which has a total capacity of several million scientific works. Of KTH's ten most cited articles, all but one come from one of the two projects.
Two of the researchers behind the works,, Associate Professor and research director at CERN and , a researcher at the Department of Space and Plasma Physics, are naturally excited about the attention.
”I am proud and it feels great that our research is being noticed,” says Jonas Strandberg. ”It is also understandable, as there are many who are waiting for the results of our experiments and what they can achieve.”
Jonas Strandberg, one of several thousand scientists who were at the particle accelerator at CERN when the Higgs particle was discovered in 2012, currently leads the work being done at the ATLAS detector, which researchers at KTH have been involved in and constructed.
The search is focused on analysing the properties of the Higgs particle, and to find traces of new, previously undiscovered particles, which would open the door to a whole new physics. Among other things, they hope to find the particles that make up dark matter in the universe.
The experiments at the CERN laboratory are one of the world's biggest research projects and are expected to continue until 2035. Over 3,000 particle physicists are involved in the ATLAS experiment, and over the past eight years have produced over 600 scientific articles. It’s a traditon that every scientist involved in analysing the results of the experiments are listed as co-authors in each publication.
”You can’t really say who wrote most of the articles,” says Jonas Strandberg. ”If we hadn’t helped each other with the basic work over the years, there would have been no analysis of the experiments. Researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology made essential contributions to all the publications – having everyone involved in writing the articles is the most democratic way of doing things.”
The other KTH research that got the most attention last year, measurements of solar activity, is also taking place within the framework of an ambitious international project. Under the leadership of the US space agency NASA, researchers in KTH’s Department of Space and Plasma Physics are contributing with measuring equipment for satellites that are in orbit around the Earth.
”It is great that we have had such a good response,” says Per-Arne Lindqvist. ”I see it as recognition that we have achieved something good. The satellites were launched two years ago and now we are seeing the dividends - it feels a bit like a ketchup bottle effect.”
The research project Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) measures solar activity and the particle flows that continually stream towards the Earth, ending up in the Earth's magnetic field and appearing as the Northern Lights in the night sky.
The aim of the research is to get a better understanding of the phenomenon of solar flares and space storms which cause disruptions to the most advanced technology in society, such as power lines, GPS navigation, radio waves, data and telecommunications.
”The project has attracted great interest from around the world, and many people have been looking forward to the results. So the response is not surprising,” says Per-Arne Lindqvist.
In total, the researchers in the MMS produced over 200 scientific papers, and researchers from KTH have contributed to varying extents to more than 30 publications.
What significance does this have for further research?
”With so many people taking an interest it’s clear to us that this is a very hot topic. Hopefully, that will have positive effects on future funding,” says Per-Arne Lindqvist.
At the moment, the satellites conducted three out of the four planned measurement periods. However, Per-Arne Lindqvist expects the MMS project to be extended for several years.
Text: Christer Gummeson