Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pear-shaped particles probe big-bang mystery

21.02.2006


A University of Sussex-led team of scientists is ahead in the race to solve one of the biggest mysteries of our physical world: why the Universe contains the matter that we’re made of.



In a paper submitted to Physical Review Letters, the team has just announced the results of a ten-year project to make one of the most sensitive measurements ever of sub-atomic particles. Theories attempting to explain the creation of matter in the aftermath of the Big Bang now have to be tuned up - or thrown out.

Physicist Dr Philip Harris, the head of the Sussex group, says: "This represents a significant breakthrough, and a real success for UK particle physics. Although there are a couple of other teams in the world working in this same area, we’re managing to stay ahead of them. It’s been said in the past that this experiment has disproved more theories than any other in the history of physics - and now it’s delivering the goods all over again."


The question that has vexed scientists and astronomers for years is why there is more matter in the Universe than anti-matter. Both were formed at the time of the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago. For every particle formed, an anti-particle should also have been formed. Almost immediately, however, the equal numbers of particles and anti-particles would have annihilated each other, leaving nothing but light. But a tiny asymmetry in the laws of nature resulted in a little matter being left over, spread thinly within the empty space of the Universe. This became the stars and planets that we see around us today.

The only way scientists can verify their theories to explain this anomaly is to study the corresponding asymmetry in sub-atomic particles, by looking for slight "pear-shaped" distortions in their otherwise spherical forms. It has taken five decades of research to reach the stage where measurements of these particles, called neutrons, have become sensitive enough to test the very best candidate theories. Neutrons are electrically neutral, but they have positive and negative charges moving around inside them. If the centres of gravity of these charges aren’t in the same place, it would result in one end of the neutron being slightly positive, and the other slightly negative. This is called an electric-dipole moment, and it is the phenomenon that physicists have been working to find for the past 50 years. Spinoffs from the original pioneering work in this area include atomic clocks and magnetic-resonance imaging.

The new result shows that the distortion in the subatomic particles is far smaller than most of the origin-of-matter theories had predicted - if the neutron were the size of the Earth, the distortion would still be less than the size of a bacterium. "This will really help to constrain theories that attempt to go beyond our current understanding of the fundamental laws of physics", says Dr Harris. "For some of them, it’s back to the drawing board; but for the better ones, it will definitely show them the way forwards."

To carry out the research the Sussex group, together with scientists from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble, built a special type of atomic clock that used spinning neutrons instead of atoms. It applied 120,000 volts to a quartz "bottle" that was filled regularly with neutrons captured from a reactor. The clock frequency was measured through nuclear magnetic resonance.

The team has now expanded to include Oxford University and the University of Kure in Japan. They are busy developing a new version of the experiment: By submerging their neutron-clock in a bath of liquid helium, half a degree above absolute zero, they will increase their sensitivity a hundredfold.

Jacqui Bealing | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sussex.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
24.05.2018 | University of Washington

nachricht Tropical Peat Swamps: Restoration of Endangered Carbon Reservoirs
24.05.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>