Scientists from the COHERENT team made a major discovery which can help them unravel many of the mysteries of the universe. Among the things it can explain, it would be why the universe contains matter and it’s not only a void. This landmark achievement consisted of successfully detecting neutrinos.
What are neutrinos?
Neutrinos are weird particles which can almost reach the speed of light. While traveling, they have the ability to pass through almost anything. However, this makes them pretty difficult to spot, so scientists had a hard time studying them. So far, they had to build huge detectors and hope they can take a short look at them, and didn’t manage to develop a comprehensive study.
Now, they managed an incredible achievement. After constructing an instrument about the size of a thermos, they finally detected the presence of neutrinos and could take a better look at them. To build this instrument, they exploited the interaction taking place between atomic nuclei and these strange particles.
Scientists spotted the particles using light
The existence of this interaction was discovered 40 years ago, but this is the first time when it was observed. It also holds the name coherent scattering, hence the name of the project. However, coherent scattering is even more difficult to see than any other interaction involving neutrinos.
Coherent scattering occurs only with low-energy neutrinos, meaning that they’re hard to see when they collide with atoms. However, the team used crystals of cesium iodide when they built the detecting instrument. Each time these crystals collided with neutrinos, they emitted light.
At the moment, the technology behind the detector can be used to devise more portable instruments of the kind. These instruments might help scientists detect neutrino activity in nuclear facilities. Gradually, they might come to develop more tools to help us find more about the universe.
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