Particle physics experiments

Two small-scale experiments could beat huge machines looking for evidence of new physics – and could improve cancer treatment – ScienceDaily


Experiments have spotted anomalies hinting at a new type of neutrino, which would go beyond the Standard Model of particle physics and possibly open a portal to the Dark Sector. But no one has ever directly observed this hypothetical particle.

Today, a quantum dark matter detector and a particle accelerator project imagined by machine learning are set to prove whether the sterile neutrino exists.

The IsoDAR cyclotron would deliver ten times more beam current than any existing machine, according to the MIT team that designed it. Occupying only a small underground footprint, the cyclotron can give definitive signs of sterile neutrinos within five years.

At the same time, this intense beam could solve a major problem in cancer treatment: producing enough radioactive isotopes to kill cancer cells and scan tumors. The beam could produce large amounts of medical isotopes and even allow hospitals and small laboratories to make their own.

“There is a direct link between technology that can be used to understand our universe and technology that can be used to save lives,” said Loyd Waites, an MIT doctoral student who will discuss the plans at the fall meeting. 2021 of the APS Nuclear Physics Division.

Among the existing sterile neutrino hunters, one of the most powerful in the world has a single detector. The BeEST (pronounced “beast”) may look like a monster, but the experiment uses a quantum sensor to measure nuclear recoils from a neutrino’s “kick”.

This proper method searches for the mysterious particle without the additional obstacle of searching for its interactions with normal matter. A single month of testing established a new benchmark that covers a wide range of masses, applicable to much larger sterile neutrino experiments like KATRIN.

“This early work already rules out the existence of this type of sterile neutrino up to 10 times better than any previous decay experiments,” said Kyle Leach, associate professor at the Colorado School of Mines, who presents the first series of results (recently reported in Physical examination letters) during a meeting.

BeEST, a collaboration of 30 scientists from 10 institutions in North America and Europe, is also the first project to successfully use beryllium-7, considered the ideal atomic nucleus for sterile neutrino hunting. Next step: extend the BeEST configuration to many other sensors, using new superconducting materials.

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