The University of Texas at Arlington News Releases
From left: UTA assistant professor of physics Ben Jones with physics doctoral student Austin McDonald, who is working on this project.
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded UTA assistant professor of physics Benjamin Jones $750,000 to develop a sensor for particle experiments that focus on the neutrino, a subatomic particle that may offer an answer to the lingering mystery of the universe’s matter-antimatter imbalance.
Jones was among 84 young scientists from leading national research institutions who received the award in 2018. These DOE awards support outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulate research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science.
“My research focuses on the search for neutrinoless double beta decay – a hypothetical nuclear process, which, if discovered, would prove that neutrino particles are their own anti-particles, and illuminate the origin of their extremely small mass,” Jones said. “It is a great honor to receive this award to further this research over the next five years.”
Physics tells us that matter behaves almost identically to antimatter. But if matter and antimatter were produced equally in the early Universe, then all of the matter should have been annihilated by an equal amount of antimatter, eliminating all mass. And we would not exist.
However, some matter survived. To explain this asymmetry, some particle physicists claim that the tiny subatomic particle, the neutrino, and its antimatter particle, the antineutrino, may have caused the imbalance. One prediction of their theory is that the neutrino and the antineutrino are in fact the same particle. This process, called leptogenesis, might account for the overall excess of matter in the universe as a whole— and why we are here.
To study this, UTA researchers are looking at a very rare form of radioactive decay called neutrinoless double-beta decay. Radioactive decay is the breakdown of an atomic nucleus releasing energy and matter from …