KATRIN Experiment

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – KATRIN Experiment

KATRIN is a very large scale tritium-beta-decay experiment aimed at determining the mass of the neutrino. It is a German acronym (Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment) for an undertaking to measure the mass of the electron antineutrino with sub-eV precision by examining the spectrum of electrons emitted from the beta decay of tritium. “What is the mass of neutrinos?”  To answer one of the most fundamental and important open questions in modern particle physics and cosmology, the KATRIN Experiment was designed and built by an international collaboration at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in southwest Germany. The experiment began running tests in October 2016.

Why find the mass of a neutrino?

The precise mass of the neutrino is important not only for particle physics, but also for cosmology. It will help scientists better understand the history of the universe. The observation of neutrino oscillation is strong evidence in favour of massive neutrinos, but gives only a weak lower bound, which furthermore depends on whether the neutrino is its own antiparticle or not.

Along with the possible observation of neutrino less double beta decay, KATRIN is one of the neutrino experiments most likely to yield significant results in the near future.

Neutrinos:

  • Neutrinos probably are the most fascinating species of elementary particles. The “ghost particle of the Universe” is a key to open issues in science on many scales, linking the microcosm of elementary particles to the largest structures in the Universe.
  • The neutrino is so named because it is electrically neutral and because its rest mass is so small (-ino) that it was long thought to be zero.
  • Neutrinos are the lightest particles in the Universe. Their tiny mass is a clear indication for physics beyond the standard model of elementary particle physics.
  • On the largest scales, neutrinos act as “cosmic architects” and take part in shaping the visible structures in the Universe, as they influence the formation and the distribution of galaxies.

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