Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spallation Neutron Source Sends First Neutrons to 'Big Bang' Beam Line

While all the brouhaha has been swirling around the LHC, we all forget that the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge is also undergoing major milestones. This week, the first neutrons have been sent along the Fundamental Neutron Physics Beam Line.

The SNS is one of those unique facility where, while the major area of study will be using the neutrons as a probe to study condensed matter/material science properties, the FNPB will study fundamental properties of the neutron itself.

"While other beam lines use neutrons as a probe to study materials, the object for much of the work proposed at the FNPB is the study of the neutron itself," said University of Tennessee Professor Geoffrey Greene, who holds a Joint Faculty Appointment with ORNL and who leads the FNPB project. "Among the questions that will be addressed at the FNPB are the details of the internal structure of the neutron as well as a careful study of the way in which the free neutron decays. Such experiments have important implication for fundamental questions in particle physics and cosmology."

Greene explained that neutrons, which have no electric charge, may nevertheless have a slight displacement between internal positive and negative charges. The existence of such a "neutron electric dipole moment" could shed light on what happened in the early phases of the Big Bang. In particular it could help to explain why the universe appears to be made entirely of matter without any antimatter, he said.

Luckily, the catastrophic-scenario wackos haven't heard of it and can't understand it enough to create any noise.



Kent Leung said...

Some self-plugging if you don't mind...

If people are interested in this type of physics, we have a lot going on at the ILL which has had the most intense Ultra-Cold Neutron source in the world. :)

Borja said...

Kent, maybe you could tell me whats your impression about Ess-Bilbao. I'm also involved in Neutron Sciences.

RC said...

I guess the Ess-Bilbao (the future spallation neutron source for Europe) will have a beam profile of about 1,3 GeV protons, used to pull off the neutrons from the target. I think this is interesting and powerful for matter studies.