Solving the mysteries of astrophysics: Ultracold neutrons

Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 11:02 in Physics & Chemistry

Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU, Germany) have built what is currently the strongest source of ultracold neutrons. Ultracold neutrons (UCNs) were first generated here five years ago. They are much slower than thermal neutrons and are characterized by the fact that they can be stored in special containers. This property makes them important tools for experiments to investigate why matter dominates over antimatter in our universe and how the lightest elements were created directly after the Big Bang. "We have commissioned a new UCN source and improved the overall procedure so that we can now generate and store considerably more ultracold neutrons than before and more than anybody else," says Professor Werner Heil of the Institute of Physics at Mainz University. Having so far managed to achieve a density of ten UCN per cubic centimeter, the Mainz research team of chemists and physicists has become one of the...

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