Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research overturns accepted notion of neutron's electrical properties

19.09.2007
For two generations of physicists, it has been a standard belief that the neutron, an electrically neutral elementary particle and a primary component of an atom, actually carries a positive charge at its center and an offsetting negative charge at its outer edge.

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!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms
25.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>