Investigating the Big Bang particle

November 9, 2012

Scientists at the University of Huddersfield are collaborating with experts at some of the world's leading research institutes in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of a particle that played a role in the creation of the universe.

The existence of neutrinos and anti-neutrinos – particles that are almost massless and which travel at from one side of the earth to the other – was confirmed more than 50 years ago. Scientists believe that they were created at the Big Bang and might hold the key to the nature of the universe.

But they are that react weakly with matter and they change properties as they travel. This process – named neutrino oscillation – makes the particles highly elusive.

"To study them you have to produce them at very high rates and my research is all about maximising anti-neutrino production," says Dr Adriana Bungau, a research fellow at the University of Huddersfield and a member of its International Institute for Accelerator Applications.

She is the lead author of an article dealing with her research that has recently been published in the leading journal . This earned a fresh accolade when the article was then selected for highlighting by the website Physics, which aims to spotlight exceptional research (see

Dr Bungau is part of an international project to design and construct a new accelerator which will use a low-energy cyclotron to direct proton beams at a target consisting of a cylinder of -9, itself surrounded by a refrigerator-sized cylinder of lithium-7. This would result in the continuous creation of lithium-8 that would rapidly decay, producing huge numbers of anti-, which could then be used in practical experiments.

International partners

Dr Bungau and University of Huddersfield colleagues are working with international partners on design and funding proposals for the new facility, probably to be built in Japan, which already has a neutrino-detector named KamLAND. Other participants in the project include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University in New York, plus the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and the Institute Internationale Frascati in Italy.

Dr Bungau's specialist role is to design the target and surrounding components by carrying out intensive computer simulations.

"We have come up with an optimum design in order to get a higher rate of lithium-8," said Dr Bungau.

"We did that by surrounding the target with heavy water, which means that the neutrons which were chipped off by the proton impact are slowed down to very low energies, so they can be captured in the surrounding environment made of lithium-7."

This results in a tenfold increase in lithium-8 production, according to Dr Bungau, although she is aiming for more as the project progresses.

She believes passionately that improved understanding of particles will open up fresh horizons. "It is all about pushing the limits of science," says Dr Bungau.

Explore further: A step closer to solving one of the biggest mysteries in fundamental physics?

More information: The article Proposal for an Electron Antineutrino Disappearance Search Using High-Rate 8Li Production and Decay by A. Bungau, A. Adelmann, J. R. Alonso, W. Barletta, R. Barlow, L. Bartoszek, L. Calabretta, A. Calanna, D. Campo, J. M. Conrad, Z. Djurcic, Y. Kamyshkov, M. H. Shaevitz, I. Shimizu, T. Smidt, J. Spitz, M. Wascko, L. A. Winslow, and J. J. Yang is published in Physical Review Letters. 109, 141802 (2012) Published October 4, 2012.

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5 / 5 (5) Nov 09, 2012
Could you make the title any more sensationalist then barely discuss it at all in the article?
1 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2012
I thought neutrinos were called "neutrinos". Who in the world needs a different name, even such a silly one? Is that "objective journalism"???
1 / 5 (6) Nov 10, 2012
Sub: In-Adequate Perception
Cosmic flow sequence must be understood with a comprehensive spirit.Space-cosmology vedas Interlinks can help you.
Wisdom needs to put best foot forward- with the present day state of art -that misleads many fronts and add confusion to already existing state of Big-bang or God-particle.

1 / 5 (5) Nov 10, 2012
IMO the neutrinos itself are most ligtweight antiparticles, because they do form a tiny bubble of energy in vacuum (they're solitons of gravitational/scalar waves in the same way, like the photons are solitons of EM waves). As such they can balance the observable matter easily with their negative curvature of space-time. The trick of neutrinos is, the positive curvature of space-time forming the surface brane of neutrinos balances the negative curvature inside it, so as the result the neutrinos exhibits lower gravitational lensing, than the heavier particles of the same inertial mass: they do violate equivalence principle in this way. So we can have a huge amount of antimatter in the universe, but this antimatter will remain undetectable with its gravitational lensing, or it may remain hidden inside of dark matter clouds. The total mass of dark matter enables to hide a huge amount of both antimatter, both normal matter in finely divided state easily.
1 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2012
Regarding the sterile neutrinos, IMO we are already detecting it just during neutrino oscillations. During it the neutrino becomes "transparent" for terrestrial detectors during brief moment of time - and just in this time it's formed with sterile particle of Majorana type. This is because the charge-less particle is effectively equivalent to graviton, which is propagating superluminally and so it can be seen directly. A similar effect can be observed with so-called Falaco solitons at the water surface, which have an apparent tendency to disappear from our sight periodically (it's commented loudly at 0:35 min in the video above linked).
1 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2012
BTW From some indicia it seems, the neutron is behaving in similar way, like the neutrino - i.e. it transforms itself into sterile version, which literally disappears from the sight of our detectors. IMO it doesn't mean, that the neutron evaporates before our eyes in the vacuum, rather its internal weak charge of its quarks will compensate mutually in similar way, like their EM charge already did - so that the neutron will lose its ability to participate to the nuclear reactions mediated with weak charge.
5 / 5 (9) Nov 10, 2012
And here I thought they were discussing inflatons. Predictably the sensationalist heading draw the usual crackpots.

@ vidunmaya: Physics has no specific consequences for biological traits, except by excluding superstition such as spiritualism.

@ ValeriaT: Particles are not solitons, see basic quantum field theory. And this was about how to observe neutrinos, not unsubstantiated (and here erroneous) speculation.

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