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    • 2016-08-23 09:05:14
    • Article ID: 659572

    Neutrino Experiments Utilize ORNL Experts, Equipment to Explore the Unknown

    Three big studies benefit from neutrino factories and expertise at Tennessee national lab

    • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy; photographer Genevieve Martin

      From left, David Dean, Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri and Chris Bryan of Oak Ridge National Laboratory check on a prototype detector at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that creates continuous neutron beams. The prototype will mine neutrinos formed as a byproduct of radioactive decay processes for one of three neutrino experiments with major ORNL participation.

    • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy; photographer Carlos Jones

      Nearly 60 international scientists attended a workshop organized by ORNL’s Physics Division, “Neutrinos in Nuclear Physics,” July 29–31 in Knoxville.

    Approximately 100 trillion neutrinos bombard your body every second—but you don’t notice these ghostly subatomic particles. Because they are electrically neutral and interact with other matter via the weak force, their detection is difficult—and the subject of challenging experiments that convene physicists from universities, national labs and other research institutions worldwide.

    The demonstration that neutrinos can change identities—made possible by two large experiments—was rewarded with the Nobel Prize last year. The discovery meant that neutrinos have mass, albeit small. It hinted at new physics beyond the Standard Model, which captures our current understanding of matter and energy but is incomplete. This year the field of neutrino physics is full of enthusiasm as three significant experiments with different goals gear up to advance our understanding of neutrino physics. All three experiments benefit from expertise and facilities at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    “We’re enthusiastic because these experiments will provide the means to answer basic questions about the universe,” said ORNL physicist Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri. Physicists will use novel detectors to explore unknowns of the cosmos, from the properties of neutrinos to the possibility that neutrinos are a component of dark matter, which makes up one-quarter of the universe.

    One of the neutrino experiments, with ORNL nuclear physicists in leadership roles, is the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR. It is located inside a former gold mine in Lead, South Dakota, where the Homestake solar neutrino experiment once ran. Nearly a mile underground to block most radiation from interfering with sensitive experiments, the Homestake solar neutrino experiment detected cosmic neutrinos from 1970 to 1994. A Nobel Prize recognized this work in 2002.

    Partnering institutions from all over the world later built the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR’s neutrino detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota to detect an event that, if seen, would have weighty implications for the nature of the neutrino and its role in the cosmos. ORNL nuclear physicists have lead roles in project management, detector development and design, and detector modeling and simulation. David Radford, who leads the MAJORANA and Advanced Detectors group in ORNL’s Physics Division, joined the MAJORANA Collaboration in 2006. ORNL took on project office leadership in 2009.

    The MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR uses the isotope germanium-76 as both source and detector in a search for “neutrinoless double-beta decay.” The initial experiment, with equipment weighing 88 pounds (40 kilograms), is to demonstrate the feasibility of a much larger ton-scale experiment. If the decay process is observed, it would prove that the neutrino is its own antiparticle, give a measure of the neutrino mass, and provide a possible answer to why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter.

    Detecting neutrinos from neutron factories

    Two other large, collaborative neutrino experiments, called PROSPECT and COHERENT, are sited in Tennessee at ORNL. These two high energy physics experiments will detect, for the first time, neutrinos generated at two facilities whose main purpose is the production of neutrons.

    Two new neutrino detectors for COHERENT and PROSPECT are possible thanks to ORNL’s two world-class neutron “factories,” the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). SNS and HFIR are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

    At ORNL’s neutron factories neutrinos are produced in very large quantities during normal operations. Why not use the neutrinos for experiments too? At SNS, researchers use the proton beam parasitically to generate neutrinos for the COHERENT experiment. At HFIR, the neutrinos to be detected by PROSPECT are produced in the core of the reactor from the decay of fission products.

    PROSPECT is a reactor neutrino experiment led by Yale University. Its partners will mine information about neutrino oscillations—transmutations of electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino “flavors” from one to another. Specifically, they want to find out if neutrinos oscillate over short distances (less than 20 meters). Short-baseline neutrino oscillations have not been definitively observed. Observing neutrinos from HFIR’s core would allow precision measurements of the neutrino flux and energy spectrum and possibly reveal the existence of a fourth flavor known as “sterile neutrinos.” Seeing this new particle would necessitate revising the Standard Model, which describes elementary particles and the forces that govern them.

    “PROSPECT is sited at HFIR because it was identified as the best site for short-baseline neutrino experiments, in part due to the fact that it has the most compact core of any high-power research reactor,” said Chris Bryan, who manages experiments at HFIR for ORNL’s Research Reactors Division. The study involves 68 collaborators from 14 institutions, including 14 from ORNL. Near the reactor, experimenters will place a movable detector system that, including shielding, weighs 30 tons and stands 15 feet tall. The detector system will sit as close as 21 feet to the reactor core. Researchers will fill it with 3 tons of liquid scintillator to detect the flash produced when a neutrino interacts with a proton to form a positron (or anti-electron) and a neutron. A prototype detector has been built at ORNL for tests preparing for the arrival of PROSPECT’s detection instrument, now under construction at Yale. That instrument will be deployed at ORNL’s famous research reactor before data collection begins next year.

    COHERENT, a Duke University–led experiment at SNS, has partners from 16 institutions. Its 65 researchers include 8 from ORNL, with Jason Newby, a physicist in the Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division, as the ORNL representative to the collaboration. The scientists aim to make first-of-a-kind measurements of a phenomenon predicted by the Standard Model but never observed—the scattering of low-energy neutrinos off various nuclei. “The pulsed nature of the proton beam makes the Spallation Neutron Source a unique facility for this experiment,” said ORNL Physics Division Director David Dean. “In the U.S., the SNS is the best facility for observing coherent, low-energy neutrino scattering.”

    Because the SNS accelerator produces pulsed beams of protons, the neutrinos will be pulsed too, allowing researchers to easily separate scientifically significant signals from background noise.

    For this test of the Standard Model, a beam of protons will hit a target of mercury, an atom with a big nucleus capable of releasing a slew of particles, including pions that stop in the target, decay and release neutrinos. Because the pions decay at rest, the neutrinos generated will be of low energy and suitable for the scattering experiments. In the SNS basement under the mercury target, these neutrinos will penetrate 20 meters of shielding before being identified by a detector made of a 31-pound scintillating crystal of cesium iodide. Three additional targets of argon, germanium and sodium iodide will be installed this fall.

    Owing in large part to ORNL facilities, and large national collaborative efforts, scientists worldwide will soon be better able investigate the nature of these ghostly neutrinos, forcing them out of the dark shadows of the unknown universe.

    The U.S. Department of Energy supports neutrino research through its Office of High Energy Physics, with the exception of neutrinoless double-beta decay studies, which are supported by the Office of Nuclear Physics.

    Neutrinos loomed large at Nuclear Structure 2016, an international physics conference that ORNL’s Physics Division hosted in Knoxville in July.

    UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.science.energy.gov.—by Dawn Levy

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    Applying Auto Industry's Fuel-Efficiency Standards to Agriculture Could Net Billions in Corn Sector, Researchers Conclude

    Adopting benchmarks similar to the fuel-efficiency standards used by the auto industry in the production of fertilizer could yield $5-8 billion in economic benefits for the U.S. corn sector alone, researchers have concluded in a new analysis.

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    A paper published in Nature Communications by Sufei Shi, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer, increases our understanding of how light interacts with atomically thin semiconductors and creates unique excitonic complex particles, multiple electrons, and holes strongly bound together.

    Next-Gen Ultrafast Optical Fiber-Based Electron Gun to Reveal Atomic Motions During Transition State

    A new method enables researchers to directly observe and capture atomic motions at surfaces and interfaces in real time.

    Intense Microwave Pulse Ionizes Its Own Channel Through Plasma

    Researchers experimentally observed the ionization-induced channeling of an intense microwave beam propagating through a neutral gas (>103 Pa).

    Ancient Pigment Can Boost Energy Efficiency

    Egyptian blue, derived from calcium copper silicate, was routinely used on ancient depictions of gods and royalty. Previous studies have shown that when Egyptian blue absorbs visible light, it then emits light in the near-infrared range. Now a team led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has confirmed the pigment's fluorescence can be 10 times stronger than previously thought.

    Expanding Fungal Diversity, One Cell at a Time

    Reported October 8, 2018, in Nature Microbiology, a team led by U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute researchers developed a pipeline to generate genomes from single cells of uncultivated fungi. The approach was tested on several uncultivated species representing early diverging fungi.

    Columbia Engineers Build Smallest Integrated Kerr Frequency Comb Generator

    Optical frequency combs can enable ultrafast processes in physics, biology, and chemistry, as well as improve communication and navigation, medical testing, and security. Columbia Engineers have built a Kerr frequency comb generator that, for the first time, integrates the laser with the microresonator, significantly shrinking the system's size and power requirements. They no longer need to connect separate devices using fiber--they can now integrate it all on compact and energy efficient photonic chips.

    Scientists Present New Clues to Cut Through the Mystery of Titan's Atmospheric Haze

    Experiments at Berkeley Lab helped scientists zero in on a low-temperature chemical mechanism that may help to explain the complex molecular compounds that make up the nitrogen-rich haze layer surrounding Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

    Consumers willing to pay more for sustainably brewed beer, study finds

    More and more breweries are investing in practices to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases. Will it pay off? A study by Indiana University researchers suggests it may.

    Battery testing and prototyping facility grows to meet demand for next-generation technologies

    Argonne recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expanded Cell Analysis, Modeling and Prototyping (CAMP) facility.


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    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.

    Southern Research first to win accreditation under ISO 14034

    Southern Research has become the first organization in the United States to earn accreditation under ISO 14034, a new international standard for evaluating and verifying environmental technologies that was recently adopted by the American National Standards Institute.

    Kawtar Hafidi to head Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate at Argonne

    Physicist Kawtar Hafidi has been appointed Associate Laboratory Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

    Argonne researchers honored by Energy Secretary's awards program

    A select group of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently recognized for their contributions to infrastructure security and nuclear nonproliferation at the Secretary's Honor Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on August 29.

    PPPL's Sam Cohen earns award at meeting of U.S. government-funded laboratories hosted by PPPL

    PPPL physicist Sam Cohen and a local company win a Federal Laboratory Consortium award for a rocket propulsion technology.

    ORNL researchers advance quantum computing, science through six DOE awards

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the recipient of six awards from DOE's Office of Science aimed at accelerating quantum information science (QIS), a burgeoning field of research increasingly seen as vital to scientific innovation and national security. The awards, which represent three Office of Science programs, were made in conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in QIS and will leverage and strengthen ORNL's established programs in quantum information processing and quantum computing.

    Innovating Our Energy Future

    Energy innovations like wind, wave, and solar power, bio-fuels, and small modular reactors have the potential to change the world. Discover how Oregon State and NuScale Power are working to take these innovations from lab to market. Lecture is free and open to the public. Registration requested: engineering.oregonstate.edu/lecture


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    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.

    New Electron Glasses Sharpen Our View of Atomic-Scale Features

    A new approach to atom probe tomography promises more precise and accurate measurements vital to semiconductors used in computers, lasers, detectors, and more.

    Getting an Up-Close, 3-D View of Gold Nanostars

    Scientists can now measure 3-D structures of tiny particles with properties that hold promise for advanced sensors and diagnostics.

    Small, Short-Lived Drops of Early Universe Matter

    Particle flow patterns suggest even small-scale collisions create drops of early universe quark-gluon plasma.


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