Science & Technology

Electrons Set the Stage for Neutrino Experiments – Solving Mystery of the Origins of Our Matter-Dominated Universe

Neutrinos interacting with nuclei. Credit score: DOE’s Jefferson Lab

Early-career nuclear physicists present that a greater understanding of how neutrinos work together with matter is required to make the most of upcoming experiments.

Neutrinos could also be the key to lastly fixing a thriller of the origins of our matter-dominated universe, and preparations for two main, billion-dollar experiments are underway to disclose the particles’ secrets and techniques. Now, a workforce of nuclear physicists have turned to the humble electron to supply perception for how these experiments can higher put together to seize crucial info. Their analysis, which was carried out at the U.S. Division of Vitality’s Thomas Jefferson Nationwide Accelerator Facility and just lately revealed in Nature, reveals that main updates to neutrino fashions are wanted for the experiments to attain high-precision outcomes.

Neutrinos are ubiquitous, generated in copious numbers by stars all through our universe. Although prevalent, these shy particles not often work together with matter, making them very troublesome to check.

“There may be this phenomenon of neutrinos altering from one sort to a different, and this phenomenon known as neutrino oscillation. It’s fascinating to check this phenomenon, as a result of it’s not effectively understood,” stated Mariana Khachatryan, a co-lead creator on the research who was a graduate pupil at Outdated Dominion College in Professor and Eminent Scholar Larry Weinstein’s analysis group when she contributed to the analysis. She is now a postdoctoral analysis affiliate at Florida Worldwide College.

One strategy to research neutrino oscillation is to construct gigantic, ultra-sensitive detectors to measure neutrinos deep underground. The detectors sometimes comprise dense supplies with massive nuclei, so neutrinos usually tend to work together with them. Such interactions set off a cascade of different particles which are recorded by the detectors. Physicists can use that information to tease out details about the neutrinos.

“The best way that neutrino physicists are doing that’s by measuring all particles popping out of the interplay of neutrinos with nuclei and reconstructing the incoming neutrino power to study extra about the neutrino, its oscillations, and to measure them very, very exactly,” defined Adi Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi is the research’s contact creator who labored on this undertaking as a analysis scholar in Professor Or Hen’s analysis group at the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how. She is now a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv College.

“The detectors are made of heavy nuclei, and the interactions of neutrinos with these nuclei are literally very sophisticated interactions,” Ashkenazi stated. “These neutrino power reconstruction strategies are nonetheless very difficult, and it’s our work to enhance the fashions we use to explain them.”

These strategies embrace modeling the interactions with a theoretical simulation known as GENIE, permitting physicists to deduce the energies of the incoming neutrinos. GENIE is an amalgam of many fashions that every assist physicists reproduce sure elements of interactions between neutrinos and nuclei. Since so little is thought about neutrinos, it’s troublesome to immediately check GENIE to make sure it can produce each correct and high-precision outcomes from the new information that might be supplied by future neutrino experiments, reminiscent of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) or Hyper-Kamiokande.

To check GENIE, the workforce turned to a humble particle that nuclear physicists know much more about: the electron.

“This exploits the similarities between electrons and neutrinos. We’re utilizing electron research to validate neutrino-nucleus interplay fashions,” stated Khachatryan.

Neutrinos and electrons have many issues in frequent. They each belong to the subatomic particle household known as leptons, so they’re each elementary particles that aren’t affected by the sturdy pressure.

On this research, the workforce used an electron-scattering model of GENIE, dubbed e-GENIE, to check the similar incoming power reconstruction algorithms that neutrino researchers will use. As a substitute of utilizing neutrinos, they used current electron outcomes.

“Electrons have been studied for years, and the beams of the electrons have very exact energies,” stated Ashkenazi. “We all know their energies. And after we are attempting to reconstruct that incoming power, we will evaluate that to what we all know. We are able to check how effectively our strategies work for numerous energies, which is one thing you possibly can’t do with neutrinos.”

The enter information for the research got here from experiments carried out with the CLAS detector at Jefferson Lab’s Steady Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, a DOE consumer facility. CEBAF is the world’s most superior electron accelerator for probing the nature of matter. The workforce used information that immediately mirrored the easiest case to be studied in neutrino experiments: interactions that produced an electron and a proton (vs. a muon and a proton) from nuclei of helium, carbon and iron. These nuclei are just like supplies utilized in neutrino experiment detectors.

Additional, the group labored to make sure that the electron model of GENIE was as parallel as doable to the neutrino model.

“We used the very same simulation as utilized by neutrino experiments, and we used the similar corrections,” defined Afroditi Papadopoulou, co-lead creator on the research and a graduate pupil at MIT who can be in Hen’s analysis group. “If the mannequin doesn’t work for electrons, the place we’re speaking about the most simplified case, it can by no means work for neutrinos.”

Even on this easiest case, correct modeling is essential, as a result of uncooked information from electron-nucleus interactions sometimes reconstruct to the right incoming electron beam power lower than half the time. A great mannequin can account for this impact and proper the information.

Nonetheless, when GENIE was used to mannequin these information occasions, it carried out even worse.

“This could bias the neutrino oscillation outcomes. Our simulations should have the ability to reproduce our electron information with its recognized beam energies earlier than we will belief they are going to be correct in neutrino experiments,” stated Papadopoulou.

Khachatryan agreed.

“The outcome is definitely to level out that there are elements of these power reconstruction strategies and fashions that should be improved,” stated Khachatryan. “It additionally reveals a pathway to attain this for future experiments.”

The subsequent step for this analysis is to check particular goal nuclei of curiosity to neutrino researchers and at a broader spectrum of incoming electron energies. Having these particular outcomes for direct comparability will help neutrino researchers in fine-tuning their fashions.

In response to the research workforce, the intention is to attain broad settlement between information and fashions, which is able to assist guarantee DUNE and Hyper-Kamiokande can obtain their anticipated high-precision outcomes.

Reference: “Electron Beam Vitality Reconstruction for Neutrino Oscillation Measurements” by M. Khachatryan, A. Papadopoulou, A. Ashkenazi, F. Hauenstein, A. Nambrath, A. Hrnjic, L. B. Weinstein, O. Hen, E. Piasetzky, M. Betancourt, S. Dytman, Okay. Mahn, P. Coloma, the CLAS Collaboration and e4ν Collaboration, 24 November 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04046-5

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