Neutrinos are some of the most mysterious particles in the universe. They’re strange, exotic bits of matter that are emitted by some nuclear reactions, and travel through space at nearly the speed of light. Trillions of them are created by the sun every second, and when they reach the Earth almost all of them pass right through it.
Neutrinos are tiny, near-massless particles with no electric charge that can easily pass through miles of solid matter without interacting with it or indeed affecting it at all.
Recently, however, neutrino research has gained some traction within the mainstream scientific community. Neutrino Energy Group CEO Holger Thorsten Schubart is incredibly excited about the greater role that neutrinos are beginning to play in clean energy research around the world.
Recently, a variety of prominent German newspapers, such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Deutsche Presse Agentur, and the Spiegel have all run stories covering the recent successes in neutrino research. The media has taken a special interest in the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica that is researching visual phenomena associated with neutrinos. Researchers at this remote installation have been able to observe tiny blue sparks that neutrinos create as they pass through our planet on their way through the universe.
Recent research has confirmed that neutrinos have real mass and have a real potential to impact life for everyone on Earth. Practically immeasurable quantities of neutrinos pass through the planet every day; for instance, over a billion neutrinos pass through an area the size of your thumbnail every second.
According to scientists, the neutrino particles that reach us in a single day represent more energy than all remaining fossil fuels combined. Researchers are excited that the recent media blitz surrounding neutrinos continue to spur renewed investigation into the incredible potential that these particles hold for human advancement.
Currently, electricity derived from coal, natural gas, and oil is transported over thousands of miles of power cables, which results in wasted energy due to voltage decreases over distances. With a neutrino-capturing device, however, such as the Neutrino Power Cube proposed by the Neutrino Energy Group, every person on the planet would have access to all the clean, renewable energy they could ever need.
China to build neutrino observatory 700 meters underground
The Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory in Guangdong province is 700 meters beneath the ground, way deeper than most subway stations and train tunnels, to avoid disturbance and noise from cosmic rays. It will host a spheroidal facility with a diameter of 35 meters and 20,000 tons in weight.
The labyrinth-like lab is a joint research project with participation by more than 600 scientists from 17 countries. It is expected to accelerate China’s cosmological research and determine the neutrino mass hierarchy. Researchers also hope to measure neutrino oscillations more accurately.
“Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe…. The findings of the neutrino mass hierarchy will help us learn more about the universe, such as the evolution of stars and black holes as well as the detailed structure of the core of earth,” said Xu Donglian, a physicist with Shanghai Jiaotong University and a member of the lab program.
The team will also conduct research on other frontiers, such as supernova neutrinos, atmospheric neutrinos, solar neutrinos, earth neutrinos, sterile neutrinos, nuclear decay and detection of dark matter. “After experiments start in our Jiangmen lab, we will be able to unravel the mystery of the universe and answer a number of fundamental questions related to cosmology and physics, such as the neutrino mass hierarchy and the supernova burst mechanism,” said Wang Yifang, director of the Jiangmen program as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics.
Neutrino beam could neutralise nuclear bombs
A super-powered neutrino generator could in theory be used to instantly destroy nuclear weapons anywhere on the planet, according to a team of Japanese scientists, reported in 2013. Suddenly shining a neutrino beam of that power through the planet at nuclear warheads or nuclear reactors would disarm the enemy and shut down aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and the parts of the power grid energized by nuclear reactors, which would make prosecuting a war somewhat difficult, to say the least.
If it was ever built, a state could use the device to obliterate the nuclear arsenal of its enemy by firing a beam of neutrinos straight through the Earth. But the generator would need to be more than a hundred times more powerful than any existing particle accelerator and over 1000 kilometres wide.
Neutrinos are elementary particles with no electric charge and virtually no mass. They are produced in the nuclear reactions within stars and pass through the Earth in their thousands every day. As they pass through ordinary matter, neutrinos scatter atomic nuclei.
By scattering neutrons in uranium or plutonium, a sufficiently high-powered beam of neutrinos would destabilise a nuclear bomb. According to Hiroyuki Hagura and Toshiya Sanami at Japan’s KEK High Energy Accelerator Research Organization and Hirotaka Sugawara at the University of Hawaii this would cause the weapon to “melt down” without triggering the chain reaction needed for it to fully detonate.
But the “muon storage ring” generator needed to propose the neutrino beam would need to be 1000 kilometres wide. It would also require 50 gigaWatts of power to operate – the same as used by the entire UK – and would cost an estimated $100 billion to construct.
Weber says the first stage of a generator might be feasible within 10 to 20 years, but he reckons the main problem is that the neutrino beam produced would be just a few metres wide. This means a target would need to be very precisely located beforehand. He adds that the beam would produce dangerous alpha and neutron radiation in any living thing in its path.
“It is really quite futuristic,” Alfons Weber, a neutrino scientist at Oxford University, UK, told New Scientist. “But the maths and physics seems to be right.” John Cobb, another researcher at Oxford University, cautions: “It might be technically feasible, given massive investment, but there are still unsolved problems.”
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