The notion was first put forth in 1947 by Enrico Fermi, a Nobel laureate noted for his role in developing the first nuclear reactor. But new research by a University of Washington physicist shows the neutron's charge is not quite as simple as Fermi believed.
Using precise data recently gathered at three different laboratories and some new theoretical tools, Gerald A. Miller, a UW physics professor, has found that the neutron has a negative charge both in its inner core and its outer edge, with a positive charge sandwiched in between to make the particle electrically neutral.
"Nobody realized this was the case," Miller said. "It is significant because it is a clear fact of nature that we didn't know before. Now we know it."
The discovery changes scientific understanding of how neutrons interact with negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. Specifically, it has implications for understanding the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity).
The strong force binds atomic nuclei together, which makes it possible for atoms, the building blocks of all matter, to assemble into molecules.
"We have to understand exactly how the strong force works, because it is the strongest force we know in the universe," Miller said.
The findings are based on data collected at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., the Bates Linear Accelerator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Mainz Microtron at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.
The three labs examine various aspects of the properties and behavior of subatomic particles, and Miller studied data they collected about neutrons. His analysis was published online Sept. 13 in Physical Review Letters. The work was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Since the analysis is based on data gathered from direct observations, the picture could change even more as more data are collected, Miller said.
"A particle can be electrically neutral and still have properties related to charge. We've known for a long time that the neutron has those properties, but now we understand them more clearly," he said.
He noted that the most important aspect of the finding confirms that a neutron carries a negative charge at its outer edge, a key piece of Fermi's original idea.
The strong force that binds atomic nuclei is related to nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, and so it is possible the research could have practical applications in those areas.
It also could lend to greater understanding of the interactions that take place in our sun's nuclear furnace, and a greater understanding of the strong force in general, Miller said.
"We already know that without the strong force you wouldn't have atoms – or anything else that follows from atoms," he said.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations
20.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences
20.11.2017 | Life Sciences