The new detector, described at the March Meeting of the American Physical Society* by Charles Clark, a Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute of NIST and the University of Maryland, promises to improve existing neutron measurements and enable tests of new phenomena beyond the Standard Model, the basic framework of particle physics.
The prototype laboratory device is based on a process first observed by the research team: the emission of light from hydrogen atoms produced when neutrons are absorbed by helium-3 atoms (3He). Lyman alpha light, discovered by Harvard physicist Theodore Lyman in 1906, results from the jump between the two lowest-energy states of the hydrogen atom. Although it is the brightest light emitted by the sun and is one of the most abundant forms of light in the universe, Lyman alpha is invisible to the eye because it lies in the far ultraviolet region of the optical spectrum. It is strongly absorbed by most substances and can travel through only about a millimeter of air.
Helium gas, however, does not absorb Lyman alpha light. When a neutron is absorbed by a helium-3 atom, one atom of hydrogen and one atom of tritium (a heavy form of hydrogen) are produced. These atoms fly apart at high speeds, can be excited by collisions with surrounding helium gas, and subsequently emit Lyman alpha light. This light is recorded by the new device, known as the Lyman alpha neutron detector (LAND).
Using an ultracold neutron beam at the NIST Center for Neutron Research, the research team has discovered that Lyman alpha light is generated with surprisingly high efficiency: about 40 photons are generated per neutron for helium gas at atmospheric pressure. According to Alan Thompson, neutron expert on the team, “This device thus has the potential to detect both single neutrons and large numbers of neutrons, which is very difficult to do with present neutron detectors based on electrical discharges.”
The use of an optical means of detection, rather than an electronic one, also offers the prospect of at least a hundredfold improvement in neutron detectors’ dynamic range (the spread in recordable neutron intensity from faint to bright). This stems from the fact that optical detectors respond more quickly than electronic detectors (which suffer from longer periods of inactivity known as “dead time.”)
With further development, this new method can potentially lead to better measurements at existing neutron facilities (for example, neutron diffraction instruments at the NIST Center for Neutron Research) and enable new tests of physics beyond the Standard Model. Measurements at NIST of a property in neutrons known as the electric dipole moment and more precise measurements of the neutron lifetime are planned.
Ben Stein | EurekAlert!
UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire
NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences