The Majorana nature of neutrinos and the neutrinoless double-beta decay
Neutrinos are tiny, neutral elementary particles that, contrary to the standard model of physics, have been proven to have mass. One possible explanation for this mass could be that neutrinos are their own antiparticles, so-called Majorana particles.
Though experimental evidence for this is still lacking, many theoretical extensions of the standard model of physics predict the Majorana nature of neutrinos. If this hypothesis proves to be true, many previously unanswered questions about the origin of our universe and the origin of matter could be answered.
650 meters of shielding
In the EXO-200 experiment (Enriched Xenon Observatory), which is operated in the U.S. state of New Mexico, 650 meters below the earth's surface, scientists are looking for the evidence. Physicists from the research group of Professor Peter Fierlinger of the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen are major contributors to this experiment.
The most sensitive method to experimentally verify the Majorana question is the search for a process called "neutrinoless double-beta decay". This process is a special radioactive decay that may only occur if neutrinos are their own antiparticles.
The EXO-200 experiment has searched for these decays over several years. From the fact that not one of these decays has been detected, the scientists can now deduce a lower limit for the half-life of the decay of at least 1025 years – around one million-billion years more than the age of the universe.
"Although this measurement attains unprecedented accuracy, the question about the nature of neutrinos can still not be answered," says Dr. Michael Marino, member of the research group of Professor Peter Fierlinger and responsible for the analysis of the now published data. "That's why this open issue remains one of the most exciting questions in physics."
This result demonstrates the high sensitivity of the detector and also the future potential of this method. Hence the EXO-200 measurements are also the basis for a much larger future experiment that finally could confirm or refute the Majorana nature of neutrinos."
The EXO-200 experiment uses liquid xenon that was enriched to 80.6 percent of xenon-136 in Russian centrifuges. Xenon-136 is an isotope that is allowed by theory to undergo neutrinoless double-beta decay. The experiment's location in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) 650 meters below ground provides shielding against radioactive decays and cosmic radiation.
EXO-200 is a collaboration of research groups from Canada, Switzerland, South Korea, Russia and the USA; the Technische Universitaet Muenchen is the only German partner.
J. B. Albert, et.al., The EXO-200 Collaboration: Search for Majorana neutrinos with the first two years of EXO-200 data, Nature, Adv. online publication, June 5, 2014
Dr. Andreas Battenberg | Eurek Alert!
Theory of the strong interaction verified
27.03.2015 | Forschungszentrum Juelich
Dark matter even darker than once thought
27.03.2015 | ESA/Hubble Information Centre
In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...
The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.
As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...
When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.
The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe.
Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...
Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.
From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.03.2015 | Event News
27.03.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
27.03.2015 | Materials Sciences
27.03.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation