In an automatic list of announcements of papers published in the latest edition of Journal of Physics G, I noticed a paper co-authored by one of our (University of Surrey's) MPhys students on her research year placement. The paper, entitled The PROSPECT physics programme, describes a project taking place at a research reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study neutrino oscillations.
Neutrinos are very light elementary particles that are created in nuclear processes such as beta decay. As far as we currently understand, there are three flavours of neutrino, associated with three different particles: The electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino. When any of these neutrinos are created they are fully of one of these three types. The oscillations begin as the neutrinos travel through space, and find that they oscillate between the different flavours, so what starts as an electron neutrino will oscillate between the three different flavours. This effect has been observed by a couple of experiments (Daya Bay and Double Chooz) which both looked at neutrinos as observed at some distance (at least a kilometre) from the nuclear reactors which are the source of the neutrinos. PROSPECT is designed to look for very short range changes in neutrino flavour by having the detectors very close (a few metres) to the reactors, to help understand the nature of neutrino oscillations, and potentially look for some hypothetical neutrino-like objects.
The apparatus for the experiment is still being built and tested, and the paper is something of a statement of intent and progress report for the project. Our student, Brennan Hackett, is working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the detector assembly that is being placed close to the High Flux Isotope Reactor (pictured in this post). Congratulations to Brennan on what I think is your first physics publication (and all while an undergraduate student)!