Nav: Home

Scientists make step towards understanding the universe

April 16, 2020

  • University of Sheffield physicists take a step towards understanding why the universe is mostly matter and not antimatter
  • Research by an international collaboration indicates a difference in the behaviour of neutrinos and antineutrinos
  • The research is a major step forward and could further our understanding of the universe
Physicists from the University of Sheffield have taken a step towards understanding why the universe is made of mostly matter and not antimatter, by studying the difference between the two.

Findings from the T2K experiment, a large international collaboration of more than 350 scientists including a team from Sheffield, indicate a difference between the fundamental behaviour of elusive elementary particles, neutrinos, and of antineutrinos - their antimatter counterparts.

The research, published in Nature, is a major step forward in the study of the difference between matter and antimatter and could help to further our understanding of why the universe is mostly made up of matter and not equal parts of matter and antimatter.

The T2K Collaboration used the SuperKamiokande detector to observe neutrinos and antineutrinos which were generated 295km away at the Japanese Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC).

As they travel through the Earth, these particles oscillate between different physical properties known as flavours. The T2K collaboration found a mismatch in the way neutrinos and antineutrinos oscillate by recording the numbers that reached SuperKamiokande with a flavour different from the one they had been created with.

The observation of the difference in behaviour between neutrinos and antineutrinos is due to a so-called asymmetry in their physical properties. Measuring this asymmetry, known as charge-conjugation and parity reversal (CP) violation, may help us understand the origin of the current prevalence of matter over antimatter in the Universe.

Professor Lee Thompson, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: "Astronomers find that the matter in the universe is overwhelmingly just that: matter, with positively charged atomic nuclei surrounded by negative electrons.

"When particle physicists make new particles in accelerators, they always find that they produce particle-antiparticle pairs: for every negative electron, a positively charged positron. So why isn't the universe 50 per cent antimatter? This is a long-standing problem in cosmology - what happened to the antimatter?

"This work brings together particle physics and cosmology - by studying neutrinos, the most elusive of the elementary particles, we learn something about the largest of astrophysical topics, the universe itself."

Professor Lee Thompson, Dr Susan Cartwright and Dr Matthew Malek from the University of Sheffield's Department of Physics and Astronomy made up the team from Sheffield.

The measurements found during the experiment strengthen previous observations and pave the way towards future discoveries. A new generation of experiments under construction, involving a team of particle physicists at Sheffield, might provide an answer to the problem of the missing antimatter in the next 10 years.
For further information please contact: Emma Griffiths, Media and PR Assistant, University of Sheffield, 0114 222 1034,

Notes to editors

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities.

A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

University of Sheffield

Related Neutrinos Articles:

Where neutrinos come from
Russian astrophysicists have come close to solving the mystery of where high-energy neutrinos come from in space.
Where did the antimatter go? Neutrinos shed promising new light
We live in a world of matter -- because matter overtook antimatter, though they were both created in equal amounts when our universe began.
Strongest evidence yet that neutrinos explain how the universe exists
New data throws more support behind the theory that neutrinos are the reason the universe is dominated by matter.
Why didn't the universe annihilate itself? Neutrinos may hold the answer
New results from an experiment called T2K suggest that physicists are closer than ever before to answering a major mystery: Why didn't the universe annihilate itself in a humungous burst of energy not long after the Big Bang?
T2K insight into the origin of the universe
Lancaster physicists working on the T2K major international experiment in Japan are closing in on the mystery of why there is so much matter in the universe, and so little antimatter.
Radar and ice could help detect an elusive subatomic particle
A new study published today in the journal Physical Review Letters shows, for the first time, an experiment that could detect a class of ultra-high-energy neutrinos using radar echoes.
Radio waves detect particle showers in a block of plastic
A cheap technique could detect neutrinos in polar ice, eventually allowing researchers to expand the energy reach of IceCube without breaking the bank.
APS tip sheet: Harnessing radar echoes for future neutrino detection
New high energy neutrino detection method could lead to a neutrino telescope able to observe neutrinos with energies beyond the current observable range.
Borexino sheds light on solar neutrinos
For more than ten years, the Borexino Detector located 1,400 meters below surface of the Italian Gran Sasso massif has been exploring the interior of our Sun.
A first 'snapshot' of the complete spectrum of neutrinos emitted by the sun
About 99 percent of the sun's energy emitted as neutrinos is produced through nuclear reaction sequences initiated by proton-proton (pp) fusion in which hydrogen is converted into helium, say scientists including physicist Andrea Pocar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
More Neutrinos News and Neutrinos Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.