Tests begin on sensitive neutrino detector for nonproliferation as well as physics

March 15, 2024

Neutrinos and antineutrinos are nearly massless particles produced in many nuclear reactions, including the fission of uranium in nuclear power plants on Earth and the fusion reactions at the core of the sun.

But they are devilishly hard to detect — most pass through Earth without stopping — making it difficult to study the nuclear reactions taking place at the core of stars or in stellar explosions or to monitor nuclear power plants for illicit production of bomb material.

A new type of neutrino detector now being tested in a vast underground lab at the University of California, Berkeley, is designed to leverage the latest technologies to enhance the sensitivity and capabilities of antineutrino detectors. Such improved detectors would not only help detect, localize and characterize undeclared special nuclear material being used contrary to federal or international regulations, but also help scientists explore the fundamental physics of particles and their interactions deep in the nucleus of the atom.

Called Eos, for the Titan goddess of dawn, the apparatus signals "the dawn of a new era of neutrino detection technology," according to Gabriel Orebi Gann, a UC Berkeley associate professor of physics, faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the leader of the Eos collaboration.

Berkeley News