Research

A Massive Discovery

Carolina researchers worked on a team that made a groundbreaking discovery concerning the mass of neutrinos

A large spectrometer

Carolina researchers worked on a team that made a groundbreaking discovery concerning the mass of neutrinos

An international team of researchers on the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment (KATRIN) – including three UNC Department of Physics and Astronomy scientists – have published an article in Nature Physics on a recent discovery concerning neutrino mass measurement.

The team has established a new upper limit of 0.8 eV/c2 for the mass of the neutrino – the lightest known particle – a milestone that will impact future discoveries in nuclear and particle physics and cosmology.

“Neutrinos were long assumed to be massless until now,” said John Wilkerson, John R. and Louise S. Parker Distinguished Professor, director of the Institute for Cosmology, Subatomic Matter and Symmetries and one of three UNC-Chapel Hill participants involved in the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment (KATRIN). “Determining this absolute neutrino-mass scale is vital to our understanding of fundamental interactions, cosmology, astrophysics and ultimately to answering the underlying question on the origin of particle masses.”

Research scientist Tom Caldwell was responsible for data acquisition during the experiment, and postdoctoral research associate Eric Martin also contributed to the experiment.

“The updated limits on the effective anti-electron neutrino mass from KATRIN’s second physics campaign are an exciting new result, an impressive demonstration of the capabilities of the KATRIN apparatus, and the outcome of resolute, coordinated efforts from the international collaboration,” said Caldwell. “It has been a pleasure to build on the UNC group’s KATRIN [data acquisition] efforts, driven by Mark Howe (now retired), and support the KATRIN experiment’s [data acquisition] systems.”

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