A wild new technique can finally measure the elusive neutrino: ScienceAlert

Neutrinos They are abundant subatomic particles that play a crucial role in the formation of the universe. Initially, these hard-to-detect particles were considered massless, and according to updated theories they must weigh something.

Exactly what this measurement is has not yet been determined experimentally. An international team of scientists has come up with a new way to solve this little mystery.

Knowing the mass of a neutrino would be a huge moment for science, not least in helping to figure out how the early universe first began, but these particles have refused to play well with our current instruments and detectors.

The answer, as proposed in a new study, could lie in tracking Beta decayspecifically in the rare radioactive form of hydrogen called Tritium. This natural radioactive decay process can be observed, potentially revealing the weight of the neutrinos involved.

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“In principle, as the technology develops and scales up, we have a realistic chance of reaching the scale necessary to determine neutrino mass.” He says Physicist Brent Vandevender, of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

when Tritium When they decay, they form three subatomic particles: a helium ion, an electron, and a neutrino. By knowing the total mass and the mass of other particles, scientists hope that the missing mass is the mass of the neutrino.

This approach relies on what is known as cyclotron radiation emission spectroscopy, or CRES, which can capture… Microwave radiation of escaping electrons as they travel through the magnetic field, thus inferring the effects of the associated neutrino.

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“The neutrino is incredibly light.” He says Physicist Talia Weiss, from Yale University. “It is more than 500,000 times lighter than an electron. Therefore, when neutrinos and electrons are created at the same time, the mass of the neutrino has only a small effect on the electron’s motion.”

“We want to see this small effect. So, we need a very precise way to measure how fast the electrons are moving.”

Chris has It has been used before In similar experiments, the latest study is the first to analyze tritium beta decay and determine the upper limit of neutrino mass. What’s more, CRES has the potential to scale and evolve better than any other technology of this type – although there are still significant technical hurdles to overcome.

As the researchers point out, neutrino mass is vital to physics at all levels, including nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. Perhaps even when we weigh this particle, we will have a whole new branch of physics to deal with.

“No one does this” He says Physicist Elise Nowitzki, from the University of Washington. “We’re not taking an existing technology and trying to tweak it a little bit. We’re kind of living in the Wild West.”

The research was published in Physical review letters.

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