University of Huddersfield physicist investigates the Big Bang particle

November 09, 2012

Scientists at the University of Huddersfield are collaborating with experts at some of the world's leading research institutes in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of a particle that played a role in the creation of the universe.

The existence of neutrinos and anti-neutrinos - particles that are almost massless and which travel at light speed from one side of the earth to the other - was confirmed more than 50 years ago. Scientists believe that they were created at the Big Bang and might hold the key to the nature of the universe.

But they are light particles that react weakly with matter and they change properties as they travel. This process - named neutrino oscillation - makes the particles highly elusive.

"To study them you have to produce them at very high rates and my research is all about maximising anti-neutrino production," says Dr Adriana Bungau, a research fellow at the University of Huddersfield and a member of its International Institute for Accelerator Applications.

She is the lead author of an article dealing with her research that has recently been published in the leading journal Physical Review Letters. This earned a fresh accolade when the article was then selected for highlighting by the website Physics, which aims to spotlight exceptional research (see

Dr Bungau is part of an international project to design and construct a new accelerator which will use a low-energy cyclotron to direct proton beams at a target consisting of a cylinder of beryllium-9, itself surrounded by a refrigerator-sized cylinder of lithium-7. This would result in the continuous creation of lithium-8 isotopes that would rapidly decay, producing huge numbers of anti-neutrinos, which could then be used in practical experiments.

International partners

Dr Bungau and University of Huddersfield colleagues are working with international partners on design and funding proposals for the new facility, probably to be built in Japan, which already has a neutrino-detector named KamLAND. Other participants in the project include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University in New York, plus the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and the Institute Internationale Frascati in Italy.

Dr Bungau's specialist role is to design the target and surrounding components by carrying out intensive computer simulations.

"We have come up with an optimum design in order to get a higher rate of lithium-8," said Dr Bungau.

"We did that by surrounding the target with heavy water, which means that the neutrons which were chipped off by the proton impact are slowed down to very low energies, so they can be captured in the surrounding environment made of lithium-7."

This results in a tenfold increase in lithium-8 production, according to Dr Bungau, although she is aiming for more as the project progresses.

She believes passionately that improved understanding of particles will open up fresh horizons. "It is all about pushing the limits of science," says Dr Bungau.
The article Proposal for an Electron Antineutrino Disappearance Search Using High-Rate 8Li Production and Decay by A. Bungau, A. Adelmann, J. R. Alonso, W. Barletta, R. Barlow, L. Bartoszek, L. Calabretta, A. Calanna, D. Campo, J. M. Conrad, Z. Djurcic, Y. Kamyshkov, M. H. Shaevitz, I. Shimizu, T. Smidt, J. Spitz, M. Wascko, L. A. Winslow, and J. J. Yang is published in Physical Review Letters. 109, 141802 (2012) Published October 4, 2012.

University of Huddersfield

Related Big Bang Articles from Brightsurf:

Do big tadpoles turn into big frogs? It's complicated, study finds
University of Arizona researchers studied the evolution of the body sizes of frogs and their tadpoles.

A 'bang' in LIGO and Virgo detectors signals most massive gravitational-wave source yet
Researchers have detected a signal from what may be the most massive black hole merger yet observed in gravitational waves.

Analysis: Health sector, big pharma spent big on lobbying for COVID-19 funding
To date, Congress has authorized roughly $3 trillion in COVID-19 relief assistance -- the largest relief package in history.

Unequal neutron-star mergers create unique "bang" in simulations
In a series of simulations, an international team of researchers determined that some neutron star collisions not only produce gravitational waves, but also electromagnetic radiation that should be detectable on Earth.

Supermassive black holes shortly after the Big Bang: How to seed them
They are billions of times larger than our Sun: how is it possible that supermassive black holes were already present when the Universe was 'just' 800 million years old?

Big data could yield big discoveries in archaeology, Brown scholar says
Parker VanValkenburgh, an assistant professor of anthropology, curated a journal issue that explores the opportunities and challenges big data could bring to the field of archaeology.

APS tip sheet: modeling the matter after big bang expansion
Matter's fragmentation after the big bang.

Giving cryptocurrency users more bang for their buck
A new cryptocurrency-routing scheme co-invented by MIT researchers can boost the efficiency -- and, ultimately, profits -- of certain networks designed to speed up notoriously slow blockchain transactions.

The core of massive dying galaxies already formed 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang
The most distant dying galaxy discovered so far, more massive than our Milky Way -- with more than a trillion stars -- has revealed that the 'cores' of these systems had formed already 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, about 1 billion years earlier than previous measurements revealed.

The 'cores' of massive galaxies had already formed 1.5 billion years after the big bang
A distant galaxy more massive than our Milky Way -- with more than a trillion stars - has revealed that the 'cores' of massive galaxies in the Universe had formed already 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, about 1 billion years earlier than previous measurements revealed.

Read More: Big Bang News and Big Bang Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to