Physics & Astronomy Colloquium – Steve Elliott
February 7 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Speaker: Steve Elliott, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Title: Neutrinoless Double-Beta Decay and the Neutrino
Abstract: Understanding the origin of life on Earth motivates many of the questions that drive inquiry across all scientific subfields. Certainly, such questions influence nuclear and particle physics research. For example, the matter-antimatter asymmetry observed in today’s Universe is necessary for our existence, but its origin in not well understood. The neutrino may play a significant role in understanding this asymmetry. Specifically, a promising class of theories that explains the asymmetry requires that the neutrino be its own anti-particle. The nuclear process of neutrinoless double-beta decay (0nbb) can only occur if neutrinos have mass and are their own antiparticle. Although it is known that neutrinos have a small mass, we do not know the value or their particle-antiparticle nature. If a rate for 0nbb is measured it will help elucidate the mass, but critically, 0nbb is the only feasible experimental technique to determine if light neutrinos are their own antiparticle. This situation has resulted in a great deal of excitement for 0nbb research. We will discuss the motivations for the search for 0nbb, the experimental results to date, and a future plan for using the radiation-detection technology of germanium detectors to search for this process.
Steven Elliott, of the Physics division’s Neutron Science & Technology group, is a world leader in the physics field of weak interactions, one of the four fundamental forces of nature beside the strong nuclear force, magnetism and gravity. His work has been at the center of the discovery of neutrino mass—one of the most important discoveries in fundamental physics in the past several decades. With over 12,000 citations and as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, his work is recognized the world over.