Why Electroweak SUSY is the Next Big Thing

Title: “Search for new physics in events with two low momentum opposite-sign leptons and missing transverse energy at s = 13 TeV”

Author: CMS Collaboration

Reference: CMS-PAS-SUS-16-048


March is an exciting month for high energy physicists. Every year at this time, scientists from all over the world gather for the annual Moriond Conference, where all of the latest results are shown and discussed. Now that this physics Christmas season is over, I, like many other physicists, am sifting through the proceedings, trying to get a hint of what is the new cool physics to be chasing after. My conclusions? The Higgsino search is high on this list.

Physicists chatting at the 2017 Moriond Conference. Image credit ATLAS-PHOTO-2017-009-1.

The search for Higgsinos falls under the broad and complex umbrella of searches for supersymmetry (SUSY). We’ve talked about SUSY on Particlebites in the past; see a recent post on the stop search for reference. Recall that the basic prediction of SUSY is that every boson in the Standard Model has a fermionic supersymmetric partner, and every fermion gets a bosonic partner.

So then what exactly is a Higgsino? The naming convention of SUSY would indicate that the –ino suffix means that a Higgsino is the supersymmetric partner of the Higgs boson. This is partly true, but the whole story is a bit more complicated, and requires some understanding of the Higgs mechanism.

To summarize, in our Standard Model, the photon carries the electromagnetic force, and the W and Z carry the weak force. But before electroweak symmetry breaking, these bosons did not have such distinct tasks. Rather, there were three massless bosons, the B, W, and Higgs, which together all carried the electroweak force. It is the supersymmetric partners of these three bosons that mix to form new mass eigenstates, which we call simply charginos or neutralinos, depending on their charge. When we search for new particles, we are searching for these mass eigenstates, and then interpreting our results in the context of electroweak-inos.

SUSY searches can be broken into many different analyses, each targeting a particular particle or group of particles in this new sector. Starting with the particles that are suspected to have low mass is a good idea, since we’re more likely to observe these at the current LHC collision energy. If we begin with these light particles, and add in the popular theory of naturalness, we conclude that Higgsinos will be the easiest to find of all the new SUSY particles. More specifically, the theory predicts three Higgsinos that mix into two neutralinos and a chargino, each with a mass around 200-300 GeV, but with a very small mass splitting between the three. See Figure 1 for a sample mass spectra of all these particles, where N and C indicate neutralino or chargino respectively (keep in mind this is just a possibility; in principle, any bino/wino/higgsino mass hierarchy is allowed.)

Figure 1: Sample electroweak SUSY mass spectrum. Image credit: T. Lari, INFN Milano

This is both good news and bad news. The good part is that we have reason to think that there are three Higgsinos with masses that are well within our reach at the LHC. The bad news is that this mass spectrum is very compressed, making the Higgsinos extremely difficult to detect experimentally. This is due to the fact that when C1 or N2 decays to N1 (the lightest neutralino), there is very little mass difference leftover to supply energy to the decay products. As a result, all of the final state objects (two N1s plus a W or a Z as a byproduct, see Figure 2) will have very low momentum and thus are very difficult to detect.

Figure 2: Electroweakino pair production and decay (CMS-PAS-SUS-16-048).

The CMS collaboration Higgsino analysis documented here uses a clever analysis strategy for such compressed decay scenarios. Since initial state radiation (ISR) jets occur often in proton-proton collisions, you can ask for your event to have one. This jet radiating from the collision will give the system a kick in the opposite direction, providing enough energy to those soft particles for them to be detectable. At the end of the day, the analysis team looks for events with ISR, missing transverse energy (MET), and two soft opposite sign leptons from the Z decay (to distinguish from hadronic SM-like backgrounds). Figure 3 shows a basic diagram of what these signal events would look like.

Figure 3: Signal event vector diagram. Image credit C. Botta, CERN

In order to conduct this search, several new analysis techniques were employed. Reconstruction of leptons at low pT becomes extremely important in this regime, and the standard cone isolation of the lepton and impact parameter cuts are used to ensure proper lepton identification. New discriminating variables are also added, which exploit kinematic information about the lepton and the soft particles around it, in order to distinguish “prompt” (signal) leptons from those that may have come from a jet and are thus “non prompt” (background.)

In addition, the analysis team paid special attention to the triggers that could be used to select signal events from the immense number of collisions, creating a new “compressed” trigger that uses combined information from both soft muons (pT > 5 GeV) and missing energy ( > 125 GeV).

With all of this effort, the group is able to probe down to a mass splitting between Higgsinos of 20 GeV, excluding N2 masses up to 230 GeV. This is an especially remarkable result because the current strongest limit on Higgsinos comes from the LEP experiment, a result that is over ten years old! Because the Higgsino searches are strongly limited by the low cross section of electroweak SUSY, additional data will certainly mean that these searches will proceed quickly, and more stringent bounds will be placed (or, perhaps, a discovery is in store!)

Figure 4: Figure 5: The observed exclusion contours (black) with the corresponding 1 standard deviation uncertainties. The dashed red curves present the expected limits with 1 SD experimental uncertainties (CMS-PAS-SUS-16-048).


Further Reading: 

  1. “Natural SUSY Endures”, Michele Papucci, Joshua T. Ruderman, Andreas Weiler.  arXiv [hep-ph] 1110.6926
  2. “Cornering electroweakinos at the LHC”, Stefania Gori, Sunghoon Jung, Lian-Tao Wang. arXiv [hep-ph] 1307.5952


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Julia Gonski

Julia is a Ph.D. student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the high energy experimental group at Harvard. A New Jersey native, she graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University, with a thesis on the search for supersymmetry at CMS. Currently, her work involves the study of micromega chambers as an upgrade to the ATLAS muon detector.

One Reply to “Why Electroweak SUSY is the Next Big Thing”

  1. CMS results are for Winos production rather than Higgsinos. The cross section of Higgsinos are 4 times smaller than Winos. No limits at all.

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