Science and Engineering

Temple University

C. Jeff Martoff, Eric Hudson, Andrew Renshaw, Peter F. Smith, Hanguo Wang, Paul Hamilton
Philadelphia, PA
June 2017


A team of researchers from Temple University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Houston plan a laboratory-scale experimental search for a new “sterile” type of neutrino.  Neutrinos play a crucial role in our universe via their role in a number of phenomena, including particle interactions, radioactivity, and fusion reactions at the center of stars.  While three flavors of neutrino are known – one each as the uncharged partners of the electron, muon and tau – it is widely believed that there should also be neutrinos of larger mass and much weaker interactions, hence the name “sterile.”  Theoretical studies suggest that such neutrinos, with a keV-range mass, could account for the unidentified ‘dark matter’ known to dominate the mass of our galaxy.  The investigators propose to detect these sterile neutrinos as rare events (possibly less than 1 in a million) in radioisotope decays by precise measurement of the recoiling nucleus and all other emitted particles.  Specifically, by suspending in high vacuum a large number (100 million or more) of ultra-cold radioactive 131Cs atoms using a magneto-optical laser trap and measuring the momenta of all emitted particles by time-of-flight the emitted neutrino mass can be calculated for each event.  This project is to demonstrate the principle of reconstruction of the neutrino mass, and the ability to identify rare sterile neutrino events.  Discovery of such particles would constitute a major breakthrough in humanity’s understanding of our universe.

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