Why in the news?

Researchers from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory have successfully detected Antineutrinos using Water.


What are neutrinos and antineutrinos?

  • Neutrinos and antineutrinos are subatomic particles that belong to the family of leptons. 
  • Neutrinos are electrically neutral particles that interact only through the weak force, one of nature’s four fundamental forces. 
  • They have a very small mass, but because they interact so weakly with matter, they can pass through enormous amounts of material without being absorbed or scattered.
  • On the other hand, antineutrinos are the antiparticles of neutrinos, meaning they have the same mass but opposite charges. 
  • When a neutrino and an antineutrino meet, they can annihilate each other, releasing energy from other particles. 
  • Like neutrinos, antineutrinos interact only through the weak force, so they also have a very low probability of interacting with matter.

Role of neutrinos and antineutrinos

  • Both neutrinos and antineutrinos are produced in various processes, such as nuclear reactions and particle decays, and they play an important role in several astrophysical phenomena, including supernovae and cosmic microwave background radiation. 
  • They are also used in particle physics experiments to study the properties of matter and the universe’s structure.

Detection of antineutrinos

  • Since their mass and charge are almost negligible, and they seldom interact with other particles, detecting antineutrinos is particularly challenging.
  • Also, antineutrinos interact with matter very weakly, which makes their detection difficult. 
  • Large detectors are required to detect them, which can increase the probability of interaction.

Recent Context

  • Researchers from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory have successfully detected Antineutrinos using Water.
  • The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) was being upgraded to transform it into SNO+ when the discovery was made. 
  • Even before completing the upgrades, the scientists managed to detect the antineutrino.

About the detection mechanism for antineutrinos

  • The detection was made when the observatory’s detector components were being upgraded.
  • The observatory was filled with an ultrapure form of Water, and the detector was calibrated. 
  • During the calibration process, the researchers stumbled upon signals of an antineutrino that had travelled from a nuclear power station that was located hundreds of kilometres away. 
  • Traditionally, scientists use liquid scintillation to detect antineutrinos, which involves using chemicals like linear alkylbenzene. 

Significance of the detection of antineutrinos using Water

  • This new discovery indicates that it is feasible to construct neutrino detectors using ultrapure Water, which is non-toxic, cost-effective, and easy to handle. 
  • This breakthrough could enable the development of detectors like SNO+ to monitor the power output of a nuclear plant from a remote location.