The portable particles detector, capable “to see” separate electrons, has been created

ScienceApril 26, 2015

Scientists-physicists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed and made the new portable sensor which is finding room on a usual desktop which is able to identify separate electrons which cloud exists in the environment of radioactive gas. When atoms of gas, krypton, break up, they let out electrons, beta radiation, and strong magnets which are available in the sensor trap these electrons “bottle” where their very weak radio emission is caught by the highly sensitive antenna, amplifies and turns into a digital form. The collected data sets processed by specialized algorithms allow to restore a full picture of the happening processes at the level of separate electrons for some milliseconds of time.

The sensor created by scientists has the official name “Project 8″, the effect of cyclotron radiation, known already during several decades, in which charged particles, in this case electrons, radiate radio waves in the environment of a strong magnetic field is its cornerstone. It appears that free electrons radiate at a frequency, the corresponding frequency at which some systems of military communication work.

“Electrons radiate at a frequency which is widely used by military, at a frequency of 26 gigahertzes” – scientists write, – “The truth the frequency of radiation of electrons changes in small limits that is connected with different levels of energy of these electrons. And we used this effect for tracking of separate electrons”.

The created detector was used by group of scientists of the Pacific Northwest National laboratory (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), the Washington university (University of Washington) and the Californian university in Santa Barbara (University of California at Santa Barbara, UCSB) for record of activity more than 100 thousand separate electrons in a krypton cloud.

The vast majority of electrons behaved in the same way, these electrons radiated impulses at the main frequency every time when they faced atom of radioactive gas. But “ring” of some electrons changed the frequency and amplitude in steps that reflected loss or acquisition by an electron of additional kinetic energy as a result of collisions.


“Having united the obtained data, we collected an overall picture of frequencies of fluctuations of electrons. And in this picture it is accurately visible as some of electrons start intensively “cracking as forty” in the sensor antenna” – Joe Formagkhio (Joe Formaggio), professor of physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, – “Tells while the bulk of electrons for a long time, published not really intensive “twitter” at the main frequency”.

Of course, studying of behavior of electrons in the environment of radioactive gas is a subject of interest of rather limited circle of scientists. But, creating the sensor, Joe Formagkhio and his colleagues pursued a bit different aim – measurement of mass of imperceptible particles of a neutrino.

Let’s remind our readers that the neutrino is one of the most mysterious particles existing in the Universe. Billions of such particles pierce each cell of our bodies every second, but it is very difficult to find these imperceptible particles as they very much and very poorly interact with a usual matter. Scientists calculated theoretical value of mass of a neutrino for a long time, and now other scientists have to confirm it experimentally. And it is possible to make it only having performed high-precision measurements of parameters of particles of a neutrino for what technologies which are a basis of the new sensor developed in Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be used.

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