“It might explain why we’re here at all,” said David Radford, who oversees specific ORNL activities in the Majorana Demonstrator research effort. “It could help explain why the matter that we are made of exists.”
The Majorana Demonstrator is being assembled and stored 4,850 feet beneath the earth's surface in enriched copper to limit the amount of background interference from cosmic rays and radioactive isotopes.
Radford, a researcher in ORNL's Physics Division and an expert in germanium detectors, has been delivering germanium-76 to Sanford Underground Research Laboratory (SURF) in Lead, S.D., for the project. After navigating a Valentine’s Day blizzard on the first two-day drive from Oak Ridge, Radford made a second delivery in March.
ORNL serves as the lead laboratory for the Majorana Demonstrator research effort, a collaboration of research institutions representing the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada. The project is managed by the University of North Carolina’s Prof. John Wilkerson, who also has a joint faculty appointment with ORNL.
Research at SURF is being conducted 4,850 feet beneath the earth’s surface with the intention of building a 40-kilogram germanium detector, capable of detecting the theorized neutrinoless double beta decay. Detection might help to explain the matter-antimatter imbalance.
Before the detection of the unobserved decay can begin, however, the germanium must first be processed, refined and enriched. Radford coordinated the multistep process, which includes an essential pit stop in Oak Ridge.
The 42.5 kilograms of 86-percent enriched white germanium oxide powder required for the project is valued at $4 million and was transported from a Russian enrichment facility to a secure underground ORNL facility in a specially designed container. The container’s special shielding and underground storage limited exposure of the germanium to cosmic rays.
Without such preventative measures, Radford says, “Cosmic rays transmute germanium atoms into long-lived radioactive atoms, at the rate of about two atoms per day per kilogram of germanium. Even those two atoms a day will add to the background in our experiment. So we use underground storage to reduce the exposure to cosmic rays by a factor of 100.”
The germanium must further undergo a reduction and purification process at two Oak Ridge companies, Electrochemical Systems, Inc. (ESI) and Advanced Measurement Technology (AMETEK), before being moved to its final destination in South Dakota. ESI works to reduce the powdered germanium oxide to metal germanium bars. ORTEC, a division of AMETEK, further purifies the bars, using the material to grow large single crystals of germanium, and turning those into one-kilogram cylindrical germanium detectors that will be used in the Demonstrator. Once they leave AMETEK, Radford and his team transport the detectors to SURF.
The enrichment process is lengthy. The Majorana Demonstrator project began the partnership with ESI four years ago. To date, ORNL has delivered -- via Radford's two trips -- nine of the enriched detectors, which are valued at about $2 million including the original cost of the enriched germanium oxide powder.
Requiring a total of 30 enriched detectors, the Majorana Demonstrator is not expected to be fully complete and operational until 2015.
Those involved in the Majorana research effort believe its completion and anticipated results will help pave the way for a next-generation detector using germanium-76 with unprecedented sensitivity. The future one-ton detector will help to determine the ratio and masses of conserved and annihilated lepton particles that are theorized to cause the initial imbalance of matter and antimatter from the Big Bang.
“The research effort is the first major step towards building a one-ton detector — a potentially Nobel-Prize-worthy project,” Radford says.
ORNL’s partner institutions in the Majorana Demonstration Project are Black Hills State University, Duke University, Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (Russia), Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (Russia), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, North Carolina State University, Osaka (Japan) University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory, Centre for Particle Physics (Canada), University of Chicago, University of North Carolina, University of South Carolina, University of South Dakota, University of Tennessee and the Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics.
The Majorana Demonstrator research project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Physics.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov.
Joshua Haston | Newswise
Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons
27.06.2017 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences
Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.06.2017 | Life Sciences