# Cross section, Flux, Luminosity, Scattering Rates

Paul Avery
(Andrey Korytov)
Sep. 15, 2012
1   Introduction: Cross section, flux and scattering ....................................................................... 1
2   Scattering length λ and λρ ......................................................................................................... 2
3   Cross section and scattering ...................................................................................................... 3
3.1   Cross section units: mb, µb, nb, etc. .................................................................................. 3
3.2   Dependence of σ on energy and spin ................................................................................. 4
4   Luminosity and integrated luminosity ...................................................................................... 6
4.1   Example 1: Neutrino-nucleon event rate ........................................................................... 6
4.2   Example 2: Detecting a new particle in the CMS experiment ........................................... 6
5   Basic cross section definitions .................................................................................................. 7
6   Cross section formulas for some processes .............................................................................. 7

1 Introduction: Cross section, flux and scattering
Consider a typical fixed-target scattering experiment where a beam of particles strikes a fixed
target. The following are the basic quantities involved in scattering experiments.

Cross section: Imagine a target slab of some material of thickness Δx [m], with an area At and a
number density of small target scatterers (e.g., nuclei) nt [m-3]. Each scatterer has a projected
cross-sectional area, or cross section, σ [m2].
Flux: A beam of incoming pointlike particles has flux density j (#/m2/sec) uniformly spread over
an area Ab [m2] with total flux J = jA [#/sec]. The flux density can be written j = nbvb , where
b

nb is the beam particle density [#/m3] and vb [m/sec] is its velocity. In terms of these basic quantities the total beam flux is J = nb Abvb . Within the target material, the number of scatterers within this area is N t = nt Ab !x , where nt is their number density and Δx is the target thickness.
Scattering: The beam particles are deflected only when they hit the target scatterers. The probability of scattering is the ratio of total target scatterer area within the beam to the overall area
available for a beam particle. For a target thickness of dx the scattering probability dp is

1

with A the atomic mass and m0 the atomic mass unit ( m0 = 1. then the number of particles passing through dx thickness without scattering is N +dN. Nuclear tables typically show the quantity ! " = " / nt# [g/cm2] (which they call λ. Table 1 shows some values for the nuclear collision length for typical materials. thus the scattering length ! = 1 / nt " is the average distance that a beam particle travels in the target before scattering. so be careful). 2 . taken from the Particle Data Group web page. 2 Scattering length λ and λ ρ The number of surviving beam particles is N ( x ) = N 0 e! x/" . where ρ is the density of the material. which we can integrate for a target of finite thickness x to find the remaining number N(x) of beam particles vs x: N ( x ) = N 0 e!" nx # N 0 e! x/\$ where ! " 1 / nt# defines the scattering length for a given cross section. When σ is the total cross section.dp = N t! / Ab = ( nt Ab dx )! / Ab = ! nt dx If N is the number of beam particles striking the target. typical values of λρ are 50 – 110 g/cm2. For high-energy protons or neutrons traveling through matter. where dN = !Ndp = !N " nt dx Thus dN / N = !" nt dx . Both quantities are tabulated by the PDG. If σ is the inelastic cross section. we see that ! " = Am0 / # . Expressing the scattering length this way is useful because it varies very slowly with atomic mass A (the dependence on A is minimized because the total cross section increases ! A3/ 4 ). λ is called the nuclear interaction length. Since ! = Am0 nt . Note the very slow dependence of λρ on A. the scattering length λ is known as the nuclear collision length.661 ! 10 "24 g .

87 8. the neutrino-proton cross section for typical solar neutrinos of 1 MeV is around 10−45 m2. Nt = 1 (one scatterer) and j represents an incoming plane wave of a single particle. nb. The cross section is an area so it is measured in m2.8 55.2 61.1–1.3 25.. 3 Cross section and scattering For a beam of total flux J. O2.65 λ (cm) 603 29.3 11. Measuring the scattering rate thus provides an experimental way of determining the cross section σ: != dJ scat dJ scat = J nt dx jN t This formula permits us relate the experimentally measured cross section to theory.848 2.26 28.2 73.33 1. µb.7 84.95 2. but cost considerations normally force the adoption of cheaper materials like iron.6 10.8 207 238 – – ρ (g/cm3) 0. one prefers to use a substance with a small value of λ (tungsten) to reduce its overall thickness. The proton-proton cross section is ~ 40–100 mb.57 (liquid) 7.5 55.8 81.8 30.1 66.8 When building radiation shielding.30 2. CO2) Al Si Cl Fe Cu W (Tungsten) Pb U Shielding concrete Standard rock A 1 9 12 – 27 28 35.6 65. depending on energy. nb.1 6.1 Cross section units: mb. where N t = nt Ab dx is the number of scatterers in the area of the beam. vastly smaller than the proton “size”. 3 .35 18. etc. fb.Table 1: Scattering length of common materials Element H Be C Air (N2.2 110.21 0. lead or even concrete. The measured cross section can be much smaller than the actual geometric size of the scattering particles.1 118. mb. At the LHC. cross sections for W and Z production are ~nb (10−37 m2) and rare processes have cross sections ~pb (10−40 m2) or even ~fb (10−43 m2).96 19.9 26.7 70. For example. the rate of particle scattering (# particles scattered per second) is dJ scat = Jdp = J ! nt dx = j! N t .3 69.40 5. physicists more commonly employ much smaller units such as the barn (b).8 fm. pb. In the development of scattering theory in QM.8 50660 25.1 46. etc.4 9.72 10.071 (liquid) 1.00121 2. however.5 183. 1 barn being 10−28 m2. 3. This corresponds to a proton radius of proton of ~1.2 λρ (g/cm2) 42.4 114. a typical size of heavy element nuclei.8 63. Note that the cross section merely defines an imaginary area in which the interaction takes place. µb.70 2.3 59.

3# 100 µ b ). K ! p . Figure 2 shows the cross section for e+ e! " hadrons . there is always sufficient force between the two particles that will result in some scattering (very small for large impact parameters. which are mediated by weak interactions. Figure 1 shows the total cross section for various processes as a function of the center of mass energy s . Figure 1: Graph showing various total cross sections in mb (from PDG) 4 .The cross section of a point-like electron scattering in the coulomb potential of another point-like electron is infinite since no matter how large the impact parameter is. One should think of the cross section as a measure of the range and strength of the force between two particles. pp . Figure 3 shows the cross sections for neutrino-nucleon and antineutrino-nucleon processes. 3. These weak interaction processes have cross sections in the range of ! " 3# 2000 fb. The pp.2 Dependence of σ on energy and spin Cross sections change with the energy of an incoming particle (usually decrease because an interaction is less likely to change its direction at high energy) and its spin state (though we usually average over all spins). as a function of neutrino energy. mediated by electromagnetic and weak interactions (these become comparable near the Z mass ~ 91GeV). ! ! p and ! " p cross sections are mediated by strong interactions ( ! " 10 # 100 mb) while the ! p and !! processes result from electromagnetic interactions (with ! " 0. but non-zero nevertheless).

+ ! Figure 2: Plot of e e " hadrons combining datasets from multiple experiments Figure 3: Plots of neutrino-nucleon and antineutrino-nucleon cross sections. What’s actually plotted is ! " p / E" (from PDG). 5 .

the rate of interactions for a process having a cross section σ is given by J scat = J ! nt "x # L! . how thick does the target have to be in order to get 1000 interactions per day? Using 1000 = L! T .1 Example 1: Neutrino-nucleon event rate The neutrino-nucleon total cross section at energy Eν = 1 GeV is ! = 8 " 10#39 cm 2 . For example. Lint is most often expressed as pb!1 . etc. 2012) is 5 ! 1033 cm "2s"1 . 4.8 ! 1037 cm "2 = 18pb"1 . Integrated luminosity: The integrated luminosity Lint ! " L dt gives a measure of the total number of collisions over a period of time. Note that the scattering rate J scat = L! is the product of a quantity determined by physics (cross section) and a quantity determined by experimental setup (luminosity). where the factor L = Jnt !x = nbvb Ab nt !x multiplying the cross section is known as the luminosity [cm−2 sec−1]. in Sep.45 " 1036 / 1010 " 4. The target nucleon density (protons and neutrons) for iron is ( )( ) nt = ! / m0 = 7. 2012 the LHC had an average luminosity of ~ 5 ! 1033 cm "2s"1 . If a neutrino beam with total flux J = 1010 / sec strikes an iron target. Solving for T yields 6 .45 ! 1036 ! 86400 = 125 ! 1039 cm "2 = 125fb"1 .12 . Thus we have 144 = L!" T . Physicists are looking for a new particle with an estimated cross section of 0.7 " 1024 / cm 3 This yields a target thickness of ( ) !x = L / Jnt = 1.4 Luminosity and integrated luminosity For a given beam of flux J striking a target of number density nt and thickness !x . where T = 86400 sec. we must run long enough to accumulate 144 events where the particle is detected. we find that the luminosity is ( ) L = N scat / ! T = 1000 / 8 " 10#39 " 86400 = 1. How long must the experiment run before CMS has collected 144 events where the particle is measured? Since the detection efficiency is ! = 0. fb!1 .25 pb and a detection efficiency (all decay products measured) of 12%.. rather than cm !2 .66 " 10#24 g/nucleon = 4.7 " 1024 = 31 cm 4.2 Example 2: Detecting a new particle in the CMS experiment The average luminosity at CMS is (Sep. The integrated luminosity over an hour was ( ) Lint = 5 ! 1033 ! 3600 = 1.87 g/cm 3 / 1.45 " 1036 cm #2 s#1 The integrated luminosity is Lint = LT = 1. The luminosity is one of the fundamental quantities that governs how successful an experiment will be because it determines the scattering rate.

7 . at least in a first approximation. ! e+ e" # e+ e" . e. i. Below I list some standard cross sections in natural units as a function of s.92 ! 106 = 9. cross sections of 2 ! 2 processes can be calculated. Total: sum of elastic and inelastic cross sections. 5 Basic cross section definitions ( ) Elastic: ingoing and outgoing particles are the same. ! pp " W + + X ) any process producing a W+ in the final state. 6 Cross section formulas for some processes Using simple rules (applied to Feynman diagrams).6fb"1 . and θ. the center of mass energy squared. when either beam particle or target particle disintegrates.g. This is also a production process. ( ) Exclusive (e.9M sec ! 11 days The integrated luminosity is Lint = 5 ! 1033 ! 1. ! s is the QCD coupling constant and t and u are the other Mandelstam invariants. d! / d" . A production cross section is always inelastic. angle range dθ around some direction θ gives d! / d" : Many kinds of differential cross sections are measured.. ! pp " # + + X ): each ! + adds to the cross section. G F = 1.e. e.6 ! 1039 cm "2 = 9.166 ! 10"5 GeV "2 is the weak decay constant.g. Inelastic: opposite case. the angle between one of the outgoing particles and the beam. α is the familiar electromagnetic coupling constant.. ( ) Inclusive (e.g.. At high energy where masses can be neglected t = ! 12 s (1! cos" ) and u = ! 12 s (1+ cos" ) . Differential: cross section for scattering within a restricted range of some observable. d! = d cos" d# = sin " d" d# .12 = 0.g.g.25 ! 10"36 ! 0. d! / dE .( ) T = 144 / 5 ! 1033 ! 0. ( ) Production (e. The total cross sections listed on the RHS are ob- call that t ! p1 " p3 tained by integrating over solid angle. in theories with well-defined interactions. d 2! / dxdy . e. The total pp cross section at 10 TeV CM energy is about 100 mb.g. Re- ( )2 and u ! ( p1 " p4 )2 . ! pp " pp# 0 ): a fully defined final state (no extras)..

( ) ( G s d! ( d \$ µ u) = ( d" 4' d! + # %2 e e \$ µ+µ# = 1+ cos2 & d" 4s µ ) ( ) G s ! (( d \$ µ u ) = ' ! e+ e# \$ µ + µ # = 2 F # µ 2 ( ) ( G F2 s 2 d! + ( µu \$ µ d = 1+ cos& ) ( 2 d" 16' ( 2 F # ) G F2 s ! ( µu \$ µ d = 3' ) d! + # & 2 u2 + t 2 e e \$ %% = d" 2s tu ( 4'% 2 3s ) 8\$ s2 2 2 & 1 9 ) d! qq # gg = ( ) 27s t + u (' tu % 2 +* d" s 8 + .