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Closing in on Elusive Particles

8 Sep 2019, 08:15 UTC
Closing in on Elusive Particles
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In the quest to prove that matter can be produced without antimatter, the GERDA experiment at the Gran Sasso Underground Laboratory in Italy is looking for signs of neutrinoless double beta decay. The experiment has the greatest sensitivity worldwide for detecting the decay in question. To further improve the chances of success, a follow-up project, LEGEND, uses an even more refined decay experiment.While the Standard Model of Particle Physics has remained mostly unchanged since its initial conception, experimental observations for neutrinos have forced the neutrino part of the theory to be reconsidered in its entirety.Neutrino oscillation was the first observation inconsistent with the predictions and proves that neutrinos have non-zero masses, a property that contradicts the Standard Model. In 2015, this discovery was rewarded with the Nobel Prize.Additionally, there is the longstanding conjecture that neutrinos are so-called Majorana particles: Unlike all other constituents of matter, neutrinos might be their own antiparticles. This would also help explain why there is so much more matter than antimatter in the Universe.The GERDA experiment is designed to scrutinize the Majorana hypothesis by searching for the neutrinoless double beta decay of the germanium isotope 76-Ge: Two neutrons inside a 76-Ge nucleus simultaneously transform into two ...

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