Researchers send 'wireless' message using neutrinos

Mar 14, 2012
Image: University of Rochester

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of scientists led by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University have for the first time sent a message using a beam of neutrinos – nearly massless particles that travel at almost the speed of light. The message was sent through 240 meters of stone and said simply, "Neutrino."

"Using , it would be possible to communicate between any two points on Earth without using satellites or cables," said Dan Stancil, professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research. "Neutrino communication systems would be much more complicated than today's systems, but may have important strategic uses."

Many have theorized about the possible uses of neutrinos in communication because of one particularly valuable property: they can penetrate almost anything they encounter. If this technology could be applied to submarines, for instance, then they could conceivably communicate over long distances through water, which is difficult, if not impossible, with present technology. And if we wanted to communicate with something in outer space that was on the far side of a moon or a planet, our message could travel straight through without impediment.

"Of course, our current technology takes massive amounts of high-tech equipment to communicate a message using neutrinos, so this isn't practical now," said Kevin McFarland, a University of Rochester physics professor who was involved in the experiment. "But the first step toward someday using neutrinos for communication in a practical application is a demonstration using today's technology."

The team of scientists that demonstrated that it was possible performed their test at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab (or Fermilab, for short), outside of Chicago. The group has submitted its findings to the journal Modern Physics Letters A.

At Fermilab the researchers had access to two crucial components. The first is one of the world's most powerful particle accelerators, which creates high-intensity beams of neutrinos by accelerating protons around a 2.5-mile-circumference track and then colliding them with a carbon target. The second is a multi-ton detector called MINERvA, located in a cavern 100 meters underground.

The fact that such a substantial setup is necessary to communicate using neutrinos means that much work will need to be done before the technology can be incorporated into a readily usable form.

The communication test was done during a two-hour period when the accelerator was running at half its full intensity due to an upcoming scheduled downtime. Regular MINERvA interaction data was collected at the same time the communication test was being carried out.

Today, most communication is carried out by sending and receiving electromagnetic waves. That is how our radios, cell phones, and televisions operate. But electromagnetic waves don't pass easily through most types of matter. They get blocked by water and mountains and many other liquids and solids. Neutrinos, on the other hand, regularly pass through entire planets without being disturbed. Because of their neutral electric charge and almost non-existent mass, neutrinos are not subject to magnetic attractions and are not significantly altered by gravity, so they are virtually free of impediments to their motion.

The message that the scientists sent using neutrinos was translated into binary code. In other words, the word "neutrino" was represented by a series of 1's and 0's, with the 1's corresponding to a group of neutrinos being fired and the 0's corresponding to no neutrinos being fired. The neutrinos were fired in large groups because they are so evasive that even with a multi-ton detector, only about one in ten billion neutrinos are detected. After the neutrinos were detected, a computer on the other end translated the binary code back into English, and the word "neutrino" was successfully received.

"Neutrinos have been an amazing tool to help us learn about the workings of both the nucleus and the universe," said Deborah Harris, Minerva project manager, "but neutrino communication has a long way to go before it will be as effective."

Minerva is an international collaboration of nuclear and particle physicists from 21 institutions that study neutrino behavior using a detector located at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. This is the first neutrino experiment in the world to use a high-intensity beam to study neutrino reactions with nuclei of five different target materials, creating the first side-by-side comparison of interactions. This will help complete the picture of neutrinos and allow data to be more clearly interpreted in current and future experiments.

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TabulaMentis
1.2 / 5 (14) Mar 14, 2012
This is great news. The ghostly particles may finally be put to hopefully good use? Maybe this will soon spur the discovery of those particles I call preatomic/post-atomic (pre-subatomic/post-subatomic).
thomowen20
5 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2012
Ok, now develop more experiments... follow up!
nkalanaga
3.8 / 5 (11) Mar 14, 2012
The biggest problem is the same as the advantages: neutrinos can pass through any normal matter, including the detectors. By the time you build the accelerators and detectors it would be cheaper to lay a cable around the world.
TS1
4 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2012
Brought to mind this article I read yesterday about Andreas Blume (an expert in intellectual property security at Evonik, as per the article). In the article it said how at that company they put their mobile phone inside a small tin container every time their meeting involves a discussion on industrial secrets.

The reason they do that is to counter eavesrdropping (the metal tin works as a faraday's cage).

Now of course if cell phones communicated using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate with the phone even if it was inside a tin box.
Callippo
1 / 5 (8) Mar 14, 2012
Transverse waves are good, longitudinal ones are better... Actually it's just another version of OPERA experiment, during which the neutrino pulses were transfered at the 800 km distance through underground.
docjape
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 14, 2012
Ah ha so the pre-development for a temporal communication device using faster than light neutrinos? Messages to the past and beyond!

Sorry - couldn't resist - has the Mailonline got this story yet?
Eikka
2 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2012
Now of course if cell phones communicated using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate with the phone even if it was inside a tin box.


If you produced a neutrino beam that was strong enough to be detected by a cellphone-like device, there would be enough neutrinos that they'd leave a beam in the air.

The way neutrinos are detected is when they randomly collide with other matter, striking the nuclei of atoms and producing a flash of radiation. These collisions would happen everywhere along the path of the neutrinos, so the transmitting beam would appear like a laser beam in a snowstorm.

Except the radiation it gives off would probably be deadly.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2012
The biggest problem is the same as the advantages: neutrinos can pass through any normal matter, including the detectors. By the time you build the accelerators and detectors it would be cheaper to lay a cable around the world.
One of the things I have been thinking about for years in regard to neutrinos is the "chicken or egg dilemma" in which how does one make devices out of neutrinos so one can use neutrinos to do further research?
Callippo
1 / 5 (10) Mar 14, 2012
You needn't to make the device out of photons for being able to study them. I'd guess, the situation with neutrinos will be similar in this extent. In AWT the neutrinos are solitons of longitudinal waves of vacuum in similar way, like the photons are solitons of transverse waves. They're merely a waves of energy and if my theory is correct, then the neutrinos can never stay at rest in similar way, like the photons.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 14, 2012
In the article it said how at that company they put their mobile phone inside a small tin container every time their meeting involves a discussion on industrial secrets.

The reason they do that is to counter eavesrdropping (the metal tin works as a faraday's cage).

Then they're fooling themselves (or haven't paid attention when faraday cages came up in physics class).

Farady cages stop electromagnetic waves from going IN. They do not stop EM waves from going OUT (because the integral over a volume that contains charges always has to be equal to the sum over those charges).

So if you have a smartphone that was already hijacked by malware (and is continually sending whatever it listens to) this will still allow an attacker to eavesdrop
Sean_W
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 14, 2012
If you could find a way to convert neutrinos to and from something like photons that can be produced, detected and manipulated easily it would be perfect. Take a bunch of photons or whatever, aim them with the information encoded pass them through your magic hoop or crystal to turn them into neutrinos, let them pass through the earth, strike another hoop or crystal thingy in the beam path so they turn back into photons and then detect and decode them.

Well, I've done the hard part. Now someone figure out the magic hoop/crystal step and Bob's your uncle.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (7) Mar 14, 2012
Neutrinos can never stay at rest in similar way, like the photons.
Neutrinos are fermonic, not bosonic. Correct me if I am wrong. Photons can be stopped and held in containment as accomplished through recent experiments. The same should be possible with neutrinos. Using neutrinos for secret communications and spying through peoples' bedroom walls is not what concerns me. I am going for the bigger prize of finding those pre/post particles. From there we can go after understanding spacetime fabric, though gravity engines and immortality should become possible using preatomic/post-atomic particles (pre-subatomic/post-subatomic).
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (5) Mar 14, 2012
Brought to mind this article I read yesterday about Andreas Blume (an expert in intellectual property security at Evonik, as per the article). In the article it said how at that company they put their mobile phone inside a small tin container every time their meeting involves a discussion on industrial secrets.

The reason they do that is to counter eavesrdropping (the metal tin works as a faraday's cage).

Now of course if cell phones communicated using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate with the phone even if it was inside a tin box.

Remove the battery, unless the gov placed a special capacitor inside.
Callippo
1 / 5 (9) Mar 14, 2012
IMO the electrons within superconductor should be sensitive to gravitational waves, therefore they should be sensitive for neutrinos too. And because room temperature superconductors do exist already (albeit in quite impure state), it could open the way for more sensitive and smaller neutrino detectors for mobile phones.
Doschx
1 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2012
Set a refined version of these up in your FOBs and command structures and you have a network immune to jamming and interception.

Also, set up enough of these for bandwidth and you could have a connection to the other side of the earth with 2/pi the latency of current land lines.
antonima
2 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2012
And thats how you 'corner' the stock market:
-> one click buying
-> a faster than light signal
-> ALWAYS beat competitors to the punch
StarGazer2011
3 / 5 (7) Mar 14, 2012
The biggest problem is the same as the advantages: neutrinos can pass through any normal matter, including the detectors. By the time you build the accelerators and detectors it would be cheaper to lay a cable around the world.


The potential advantage with neutrino communication is speed. A message from point A to B on the opposite side of the world needs to travel into space, bounce off at least one sattelite and back to B. Even a message via fibre cable would have to traverse the circumference of the Earth (2pir). Neutrinos could go staight throught the middle (r) and thus would be slightly faster.
ABSOLUTEKNOWLEDGE
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 14, 2012
this is why seti is a waste of time

they listening for am stations lol

aliens dont use radio signals to comunicate

Urgelt
3.8 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2012
I can send messages by tying notes to the backs of turtles, too.

That, it turns out, isn't practical, either. But turtle-messaging has a big advantage over neutrino-messaging: when they arrive, they're easy to catch.

Get back to us when entangled particles are used to send FTL messages; that would be interesting. (Not that I'm saying it's possible. Heck if I know.)
javjav
not rated yet Mar 14, 2012
This is a potential business for stock market operators. Neutrinos could send Dow Jones index variations to the Singapore stock market computers before Internet or satellites.
With this technology you could place the first orders in the queue. Maybe this is not a scientific breakthrough, but it could give you a huge amount of money (if you are interested on it, which is not my case)
nkalanaga
not rated yet Mar 14, 2012
Stagazer2011: True, it would be faster, especially compared to satellites. The time lag in a satellite phone is quite noticeable.

Eikka: I wouldn't be surprised if the beam was noticeable. Light travels slower in air than in a vacuum. As far as I know neutrinos don't. So, they would be traveling faster than light IN THE LOCAL MEDIUM, and emitting Cherenkov radiation. That would be rather obvious, and likely would have other effects as well.

ABSOLUTEKNOWLEDGE: There's no reason to prefer neutrinos to radio for interstellar communications. They travel at the (effectively) the same speed in a vacuum, and electromagnetic radiation is much easier to generate and detect. I would agree that RADIO probably isn't the best choice, unless one is talking to primitive races. Lasers would be much more efficient, as they can produce tighter beams and carry more information.

TabulaMentis
1.2 / 5 (5) Mar 14, 2012
This is why Seti is a waste of time when listening for AM stations. LOL. Aliens don't use radio signals to communicate.
We will only be using electricity and electronics for about 250 years before moving on to other forms of power (metatronics, neutritronics, etc.). 250 years is a very short time when compared to galactic/intergalactic scales.
Ober
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
The article didn't state anything about the test being FAST.
In fact due to their ghostly nature, you have to send billions of them, just for ONE BIT!!! I'd say this Neutrino modem ran very SLOWLY and in no way was quicker than conventional means. However it did prove you can communicate using Neutrino's, which is no big surprise to me!!!!!!
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2012
Set a refined version of these up in your FOBs and command structures and you have a network immune to jamming and interception.

No. To send this (and to have any chance of receiving it) you need to send lots and lots of neutrinos, since most pass through your detectors.
Anyone en route with the same setup as yours will get the message (and you will have no way of knowing he has it, since with the miniscule proportion of neutrinos captured you'll never notice the drop in signal strength)

The only saving grace is: If he's on the other side of the globe you can send it straight through the ground (where it's unlikely that the eavesdropper has a setup to capture your signal...however he could 'simply' dangle a sattelite with pickup capability above your location because most of the message will also pass right through your target)
Benni
1 / 5 (3) Mar 15, 2012
I wonder how much projected cost there is in building an efficient "neutrino generator" versus current EM wave technology for future applications. The way neutrinos are presently generated in sufficient usable quantities requires the most sophisticated, and expensive devices available only in the highest of high technology facilities.

Then there will be the cost of much more complicated neutrino receivers operating at very low efficiency versus cheaply produced EM receivers.

Sounds more like a specialty military application than anything suited for practical use, as what I think the article was also suggesting.

TimESimmons
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 15, 2012
Because of their ..... almost non-existent mass, neutrinos are ..... not significantly altered by gravity

Just ask Mr Galileo about that one.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
I wonder how much projected cost there is in building an efficient "neutrino generator"
Any beta decay reaction produces a neutrino. Having the type of mass neutrinos you need for this type of transmission would require some serious amount of radioactive material.

Sounds more like a specialty military application
Hardly, because it's easy to eavesdrop. Where it really would shine, though, is in the fast transmission of financial data accroos the globe for computer trading. Would beat EM waves by milliseconds (which can mean many millions of dollars per day in profits)
antonima
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012

The only saving grace is: If he's on the other side of the globe you can send it straight through the ground (where it's unlikely that the eavesdropper has a setup to capture your signal...however he could 'simply' dangle a sattelite with pickup capability above your location because most of the message will also pass right through your target)


I don't think we will have a satellite with pickup capability for neutrinos anytime soon - they usually weigh a few hundred tons!

The current rate for putting things in orbit is something like 10,000$ / kg .
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Mar 15, 2012
The current rate for putting things in orbit is something like 10,000$ / kg .

And this is a problem for national militaries exactly...why? Even the most poverty stricken nation can get that kind of scratch together.

To get the receiver size down you could just up the number of neutrinos from the sender.

But all joking aside: Neutrino communications are currently pretty impractical for all intents and purposes.
Frogwatch
1 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2012
Kinda equiv to Hertz's original experiment showing "Hertzian waves".
With neutrino communications, why do we think advanced aliens would use EM waves? Can we calculate the bandwidth of potential neutrino comm systems? Could use em to comm with subs deep underwater.
What we need now is neutrino optics, used to be some theories that some neutrinoes could be reflected at extreme grazing angles like x-rays, not sure where that went.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 15, 2012

Then they're fooling themselves (or haven't paid attention when faraday cages came up in physics class).

Farady cages stop electromagnetic waves from going IN. They do not stop EM waves from going OUT (because the integral over a volume that contains charges always has to be equal to the sum over those charges).


I'm pretty sure that a Faraday cage works both ways. Otherwise you'd have invented a Maxwell's Demon.

In fact, the closest Faraday cage you have is your microwave oven. The transmitter is inside the cage, and I'm sure you can borrow a meter to measure that indeed, there's very little radiation coming out of the box when you turn it on.

You are technically correct though. EM waves do eventually come out, because they get absorbed to the walls of the box, which then radiates them outwards as heat, which is an EM wave. At a sufficiently low bitrate, you could send a signal out by observing the heating and cooling of the box.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2012
In fact, the closest Faraday cage you have is your microwave oven.

You can shield stuff inside a metal box - just not by the mechanism with which a farady cage works.

a) you can use reflection (this is what the cage in your microwave does). Also the shielding in a microwave oven only works for a particulart frequency range (Try it out. Put your phone in a microwave oven and close the door. You'll still have excellent reception...Ok...unless you turn it on ;-) )
b) you can use mu-metal which converts the EM to heat via magnetic vortices.

A tin can does neither for high frequency waves
Benni
1 / 5 (3) Mar 16, 2012
I wonder how much projected cost there is in building an efficient "neutrino generator"
Any beta decay reaction produces a neutrino. Having the type of mass neutrinos you need for this type of transmission would require some serious amount of radioactive material.


......exactly what I'm talking about, it is not cheap to produce source materials for neutrino production compared to generation of EM.
El_Nose
not rated yet Mar 17, 2012
isn't the fact that they detected every neutrino sent almost miraculous --- because aren't they like the second hardest particle to detect/interact with something to be detected next to dark matter.
Tausch
1 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2012
So neutrinos possess functions enabling them to weakly interact with condense matter...if at all.

Next step:
Are there a theoretical particles that never interact with condense matter? Will experiments ever exist to indirectly support such theoretical particles?

Graeme
not rated yet Mar 19, 2012
It may be possible to tune the system to different energies, so that electrons at a particular energy make neutrinos at a specified energy. It would also be interesting to see how wide that beam was, it is likely to spread out a lot by the time it comes out the other side of the earth.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 19, 2012
isn't the fact that they detected every neutrino sent almost miraculous

If they did it would be.
But since they didn't it wasn't.

They sent a LOT of neutrinos and caught a few of them (which corresponded to a "1") and at other intervals they didn't send any (which corresponded to a "0"). Note that it took 2 hours to transmit the one word.

it is not cheap to produce source materials for neutrino production compared to generation of EM.

Of course not - or we'd already be using this stuff regularly.

But there may come a time when we need the matter penetrating capabilities (e.g. if we want to have bases on the far side of the Moon or at the Lagrange point on the far side of the sun...and don't feel like orbiting sattelites around it for relay - though I still think the latter would be more economical)

Kinedryl
1 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2012
Are there a theoretical particles that never interact with condense matter?
Such particle would remain unobservable with detectors made of condensed matter.