The Use Of Neutrons To Understand The Mystery of Dark Energy
Scientists have discovered a new way of measuring neutrons, which may lead to further space discovery.
Scientists are using neutrons in novel ways in order to measure the unknowns of dark energy. A European collaboration led by researchers from the Vienna University of Technology has now conducted at extremely sensitive measurements of gravitational effects in a relatively small space, known as Gravity Resonance Spectroscopy. This will allow scientists to observe within the confines of their own lab. These experiments at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble provide limits to explore other possible new particles or fundamental forces.
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Out of the entirety of the universe, scientists believe about only 5 percent of all mass and energy is known. The other 95 percent of the mysterious unknown is called "dark matter" or "dark energy." They are exploring the use of neutrons to unlock other new kinds of particles or the possibility of additional existing forces of nature, similar to gravity.
The newly developed technique takes slow-moving neutrons from an ultracold neutron source in the world. These neutrons are then funneled between two parallel plates, which are swung mechanically to change the neutrons' state. Quantum theory tells scientists that neutrons only use energy when it is forced to depend on the gravity exerted.
We have not yet detected any deviations from the well-established Newtonian law of gravity", says TU Vienna Professor Hartmut Abele. "Therefore, we can exclude a broad range of parameters." The measurements determine a new limit for the coupling strength, which is lower than the limits established by other methods by a factor of a hundred thousand.
Since it is currently known that neutrons are only influenced by gravity, their behavior is easy to measure. Neutrons are perfect for this type of research because they don't carry an electrical charge and rarely polarize or divide opposite of one another.
This allowed scientists Larisa Chizhova, Professor Stefan Rotter and Professor Joachim Burgdörfer from TU Vienna, U. Schmidt from Heidelberg University and T. Lauer from TU Munich, to measure the energy levels with an analytic tool of the neutrons as they switched between the moving plates.
"This work is an important step towards modeling gravitational interactions at very short distances," says Physicist Peter Geltenbort from ILL Grenoble. "The ultracold neutrons produced at ILL together with the measurement devices from Vienna are the best tool in the world for studying the predicted tiny deviations from pure Newtonian gravity."
Dark energy is ultimately the unknown force that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate. By having the ability to measure this force, scientists will be able to understand the earth's position in the universe more accurately. The universe is thought to be about 13.7 billion-years-old, according to Space.com. The cosmological constant theory, which was originally suggested by Albert Einstein, predicts that an unchanging entity pervading space is behind dark energy.
If the close-proximity experiments conducted in the lab disprove that dark energy can be measured by neutrons, scientists will continue to explore the ability to improve their accuracy with an improved version of the Gravity Resonance Spectroscopy.
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