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The experiment provides insight into silicon, neutrons, and the fifth force

The experiment provides insight into silicon, neutrons, and the fifth force

By shooting neutrons at silicon crystals, American researchers have been able to make some interesting measurements. They teach us more about crystals and neutrons – and about the potential extra natural force.

Silicon plays an important role in our electronics; For this reason alone it is important to learn as much as possible about this element. Researchers from America National Institute of Standards and Technology Nest now has a silicon crystal It was checked in a new way – And she didn’t tell more about that silicon.

vibrating chains

In this experiment, the scientists called neutrons a silicon crystal, in which the silicon atoms are arranged in a regular fashion. Now it is true that the neutrons themselves They can behave not only as particles, but also as waves. In this case, standing waves – comparable to vibrating guitar strings – are created in the material. The peaks of such a wave can then interfere with the atoms in the lattice (left in the image below) or fall neatly in between (right). These two waves are then combined, to create a pattern that can tell you more about how the crystal works.

Neutrons form stationary waves in a silicon crystal that may or may not interfere with the atoms in that crystal. Photo: Nest

Michael Huber, one of the concerned scholars, describes it in Press release from NIST Like this: “Imagine you are playing two guitars and then carrying one on a road with speed bumps and the other on an equally long flat road. Comparing the sound of the two guitars at the end of both roads tells you something about the speed bumps either of them crossed. How big are they? How smooth?” Do they still have funny shapes?

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In this way, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers were able to map the silicon crystal structure with a resolution four times higher than previously possible using other methods.

huge electric field

And that’s not all. This type of research can also tell us more about The neutrons themselves. Although these are neutral particles in their entirety, as their name suggests, their “inside” is not. Neutrons are made of three quarks: one positive and one with a negative electric charge. These quarks are distributed over the neutron in such a way that in some places a positive charge and in others a negative charge prevails.

The scientists were able to further investigate this charge distribution because neutrons experience an electric field as they move between charged particles in the silicon crystal. This field is so strong that the neutron no longer behaves as a single neutral “sphere”, but as a particle with a positive core, surrounded by a negative shell.

The neutron has a negative charge on the outside (red) and a positive charge (blue) in the center. Photo: Nest

Previous measurements of the neutron’s charge distribution have been made – but they don’t quite match up with each other. The new result, which came out quite differently from those previous measurements, could help determine what it really is. In follow-up experiments, the researchers also hope to be able to make the most accurate measurement of the charge distribution yet.

Fifth force

Finally, the researchers considered the possibilities of a fifth force of nature. So far we know four forces: gravityelectromagnetic force strong core strength and the weak nuclear force. But of course this may not be the full story. that there is another force at play, where we haven’t seen anything (or Little) I noticed.

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It is then likely that such a new force would only act over short distances between particles. Through their research on the neutron and the crystal, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientists have been able to look at distances between 0.02 nanometers (billionths of a meter) and 10 nanometers, and to these distances they say, ‘If there’s a new force, at least it’s not. more powerful. Then so-and-so, because then we should have noticed something.

on a small scale?

“It’s a nice experience,” he says. Stephen HoekstraAssociate Professor of Atomic and Molecular Physics at the University of Groningen. What is particularly attractive is that the technique chosen for scattering neutrons on a very pure crystal allowed them to measure the properties of these neutrons well. This interesting technology will certainly be developed, by working at lower temperatures and using crystals of different materials.

Hoekstra thinks it’s an exaggeration for the press release to describe the experience as “small in size” and “fit on a table.” The crystal itself is of course very small, and so is the equipment for measuring neutron scattering. But to make the neutron beam, the researchers use a large facility.