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25.015 Double-β decay

 


New results to the question, why matter exists at all, 6.4.2017
Der Standard, Double-β decay

 

New results to the question, why matter exists at all

First background-free experiment for double-β decay, with which the identity of neutrinos and antineutrinos is to be proven

Why is there more matter than antimatter in our universe? Differently asked: Why do we exist? These questions physicists try to approach with experiments and theories. In the current edition of the magazine "Nature" a research cooperation presents new results to such an experiment.

The Gerda experiment investigates an extremely rare decay. It is connected to the possibility that neutrinos are at the same time their own antiparticles. If this is correct, then there are a number of theories, which building up on it can explain the dominance of matter in the universe.

Unusual radioactive process

When this is so, it could come to an unusual and extremely rare radioactive process in nuclei of atoms: the double-β decay. On that occasion two neutrons change into two protons, in which two electrons and two antineutrinos come into being. Latter could offset each other when neutrinos are their own antiparticles.

The aim of the Gerda experiment is to prove such process, in which the decay of germanium 76 is observed. As the collaboration now reports, the first background-free experiment succeeded – an important progress. But the double-β decay and consequently the identity of neutrinos and antineutrinos could not be proven. As a result the process is not ruled out; however larger detectors are probably needed to prove it. "I believe that the process exists, but it is difficult to say, when the proof succeeds", says co-author Peter Grabmayr from the University Tübingen.

 

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