Leptoquarks and the third generation

10 November 2020

A report from the CMS experiment

Figure 1

The Standard Model (SM) groups quarks and leptons separately to account for their rather different observed properties, but might they be unified through a new particle that couples to both and turns one into the other? Such “leptoquarks” emerge quite naturally in several theo­ries that extend the SM. Searches for leptoquarks have been an important part of the LHC’s research programme since the beginning, and have received additional attention recently in the light of hints of deviations from the principle of lepton universality – the so-called flavour anomalies.

In a recent CMS analysis, where the events collected in pp collisions during Run 2 (137 fb–1) are analysed, researchers have challenged the SM by investigating a previously unexplored leptoquark signature involving the third generation of fermions. The motivation for considering the third generation is to confront the principle of lepton universality, which asserts that the couplings of leptons with gauge bosons are flavour independent. This principle is built into the SM, but has recently been put under stress by a series of anomalies observed in precision measurements of certain B-meson decays by the LHCb, Belle and BaBar collaborations. A possible explanation for these anomalies, which are still under investigation and not yet confirmed, lies in the existence of leptoquarks that preferentially couple to the heaviest fermions.

These results are the most stringent limits to date on the presence of leptoquarks that couple preferentially to the third generation

The new CMS search looks for both single and pair production of leptoquarks. It considers leptoquarks that decay to a quark (top or bottom) and a lepton (tau or neutrino), targeting the signature with a top quark, a tau lepton, missing transverse momentum due to a neutrino, and, in the case of double production, an additional bottom-quark jet. This is the first search to simultaneously consider both production mechanisms by categorising events with one or two jets originating from a bottom quark. The analysis also includes a dedicated selection for the case of a large mass splitting between the leptoquark and the top quark, which would boost the top quark and could cause its decay products to be inseparable given the spatial resolution of jets.

The observations are found to be in agreement with the SM prediction, and exclusion limits are derived in the plane of the leptoquark–lepton–quark vertex coupling λ and the leptoquark mass. The results are derived separately for hypothetical spin-0 and spin-1 (figure 1) leptoquarks, reflecting the two types allowed by theoretical models. The analy­sis assumes that the leptoquark decays half the time to each of the possible quark–lepton flavour pairs, for example, in the case of a spin-1 leptoquark, to a top quark and a neutrino, or to a bottom quark and a tau lepton. CMS finds a range of lower limits on the leptoquark mass between 0.98 and 1.73 TeV, at 95% confidence, depending on λ and the spin.

These results are the most stringent limits to date on the presence of leptoquarks that couple preferentially to the third generation of fermions. They also probe the parameter space preferred by the B-physics anomalies in several models, excluding relevant portions. As theories predict leptoquark masses as high as many tens of TeV, the pursuit of this promising solution for the unification of quarks and leptons must continue. The CMS collaboration has a broad programme for further investigations that will exploit the larger data samples from Run 3 and the high-luminosity LHC under different hypotheses. If leptoquarks exist, they may well be revealed in the coming data.

Further reading

CMS Collaboration 2020 CMS-PAS-EXO-19-015.

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