By The Texas A&M System National Laboratories Office
Researchers are using cutting-edge technology to advance scientists’ understanding of the universe thanks to a collaborative research effort by The Texas A&M University System National Laboratories Office and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Professor Rupak Mahapatra, Ph.D. from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University and Richard Van de Water, Ph.D., Steven Elliott, Ph.D., William Louis, Ph.D. and Rajan Gupta, Ph.D. from LANL have teamed up to create the Los Alamos A&M Dark Matter Neutrino Alliance. Their goal is to find new ways to detect and study neutrinos.
Neutrinos are subatomic particles similar to electrons, but with no electrical charge and almost no mass. They do not interact with matter, making them difficult to detect. However, their behavior is similar to dark matter and may be key to improving our understanding of both and their respective places in the universe. Since scientists currently understand about 5% of what the universe is comprised of, making further explorations into understanding neutrinos and dark matter is important.
“The collaborative research between Texas A&M and LANL will greatly benefit both institutions and will have the possibility of making fundamental discoveries about the dark sector,
which accounts for 95% of the mass-energy of the universe,” said Louis. “The composition of the dark sector, which is unknown at present, is arguably the most important question in physics
today and coherent neutrino scattering (CNS) offers an innovative new method for studying the dark sector. The combining of resources will provide a wonderful opportunity for students and scientists to make significant contributions to both experiments.”
The research plan includes two different setups to explore neutrino interactions in two distinct types of detectors. One setup is a TRIGA reactor, a nuclear reactor designed for research, testing and isotope production. For this project, the Texas A&M TRIGA reactor provides low energy neutrinos (~1 MeV). The other setup is a neutron beam that is a copious source of pions that eventually provide high-energy (~30 MeV) neutrinos at LANL. These methods are complementary, focusing on different ranges for detection that may be crucial in having a coherent picture of new neutrino properties.
Mahapatra, of the Mitchell Institute Neutrino Experiment at Reactor (MINER) experiment, explained, “CNS measurements using reactor neutrinos at Texas A&M (the MINER experiment) and the stopped pion source at LANL (the Coherent Captain Mills experiment) will provide complementary measurements that are essential in understanding possible new physics. The collaborative research effort will include many elements common to both experiments, including radiation shielding, simulations, radiation detector development and data analysis.”
The combined data from this project should illuminate new aspects of dark matter and neutrino behaviors that would make significant advances in the field of physics and improve the scientific community as a whole.