Surrounded by lead and also shielded by nearly a mile of rock from the natural bombardment of particles at the Earth’s surface, the CUORE experiment has amassed the largest dataset yet for a project of its kind, which is using solid crystals to detect a theorized event that would answer a big question about how matter won out over antimatter in our universe. It would also tell us whether ghostly particles called neutrinos, which pass through most matter uninterrupted, are essentially their own antiparticles.
The data collected by CUORE, the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events, now represents more than a “ton-year” of data (equivalent to a year’s worth of data if the crystals weighed one ton) collected by a solid-state (crystal vs. liquid or gas) detector for an experiment of its kind, based on the weight of its detector crystals. CUORE has an array of 988 detector crystals. Its crystals each weigh about 1.6 pounds, and in total they weigh about 0.8 ton.
Located at Gran Sasso National Laboratory (Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, or LNGS, operated by the Italian Nuclear Physics Institute, INFN) in central Italy, CUORE has reached a milestone in surpassing the data collected for comparable experiments by about 10 times, said Yury Kolomensky, U.S. spokesperson for the CUORE collaboration and senior faculty scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).
The experiment is designed to detect a theorized, never-before-seen nuclear decay process known as neutrinoless double-beta decay, occurring in atoms of tellurium-130, a radioactive isotope in the detector crystals. An isotope is a form of an element with more or fewer neutrons (uncharged particles) in its nucleus than is standard.
CUORE has carried out its ultrasensitive search without interruption since March 19. It operates near absolute zero, the coldest temperature in the known universe. The CUORE collaboration plans to operate the experiment for another few years, and then upgrade it to CUPID – a new, even more sensitive detector. Berkeley Lab will lead the U.S. participation in the international CUPID project.
- “Scientists Successfully Demonstrate a New Experiment in the Search for Theorized ‘Neutrinoless’ Process,” July 13, 2020
- “CUORE Underground Experiment in Italy Carries on Despite Pandemic,” May 12, 2020
- “The CUORE Underground Experiment Narrows the Search for Rare Particle Process,” Jan. 9, 2020
- “Experiment Provides Deeper Look into the Nature of Neutrinos,” Oct. 23, 2017