New DUNE Experiment Could Help Scientists Finally Understand Why Matter Exists In The Universe

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) will be taking a close look at neutrinos to try and better understand matter and antimatter.

The new DUNE experiment will focus on neutrinos to try and explain why there is matter in the universe.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) will be taking a close look at neutrinos to try and better understand matter and antimatter.

Scientists have long wondered why our universe contains matter, and very soon the new Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) may finally answer this question. Over 1,000 scientists from around the world will be participating in this new area of research that will analyze the neutrino, the tiniest subatomic particle that scientists have ever discovered.

When DUNE is finally fully operational, it will see neutrinos being shot out of a particle accelerator every second of the day over the course of many years. After the neutrinos are let loose in Chicago, they will quickly find their way to an old mine in South Dakota that has been turned into a neutrino detector, as NBC reported, and these shooting beams of neutrinos will be traveling an astonishing 800 miles to reach their destination.

Even though DUNE will not officially begin performing experiments for a few years now, scientists are hard at work on the accelerator and getting extremely excited about their project, as Edward Blucher from the University of Chicago explained.

“You can live a happy life without knowing much about neutrinos, but they’re one of the real keys to the way our universe developed after the Big Bang, and why it works the way it does. Right now scientists guess that the most plausible explanation is that neutrinos played a key role in what happened early in the universe, but DUNE is going to give us some real hints as to what actually happened.”

When it comes to the question of why matter exists in the universe after the Big Bang, most scientists are of the belief that equal amounts of both matter and antimatter existed.

However, if this is really the case, scientists would like to know what happened to all of the antimatter out there, and learn why there is such an abundance of matter today over antimatter.

Physicists working at DUNE believe that they may finally be able to solve this problem by observing large amounts of neutrinos and antineutrinos to determine how different they are from each other.

While a bold step in the world of physics, Fermilab’s Nigel Lockyer has called the new research just the start of a long experimental journey.

“This experiment is one small step in a journey to try and understand what actually happened in the very early universe. Neutrinos are absolutely everywhere, they’re the most ubiquitous particle in the universe, so they must have played a big role.”

There are three different kinds of neutrinos, which include the tau neutrinos, the muon neutrinos, and the electron neutrinos. When neutrinos travel, they change their type both quickly and repeatedly.

However, part of the reason why it has been so difficult to study neutrinos is because they only change after traveling a great distance, which is the reason why they will be shot out of the particle accelerator in Chicago after which they will then have 800 miles to change their type before they hit South Dakota, where they can be measured at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

If scientists discover that neutrinos end up changing their type faster than antineutrinos, which is currently the leading belief, then neutrino decay might help to explain why the universe has so much matter in it.

Lockyer notes that while physicists may be expecting to have data support the idea that there is a marked difference in neutrinos and antineutrinos, if DUNE ends up proving them wrong they might have to look in a different direction.

“Over time we’re going to count the numbers of each charged particles we get from the neutrino beam and the antineutrino beam, and if those numbers are quite different, then it’s a big effect we’re looking at. But if there’s no difference at all, we might be chasing down the wrong street.”

With the DUNE experiment set to start in the next few years, the close study of neutrinos and antineutrinos may just help scientists unravel why matter exists in the universe.