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Tech Physics Students Help With Research On Neutron Life

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Physics Students Help With Research On Neutron Life

A group of Tennessee Tech physics students and their professors have had their research published in the Physical Review Letters journal.

Associate Professor Adam Holley said that one of the basic ideas behind the research is to expand our understanding of the way the universe works. Holley said that this experiment attempts to measure the lifespan of a neutron with a precision that has never been done before.

“Being very precise provides sort of the first opportunity to use and experiment with decaying neutrons,” Holley said. “To start to actually have a chance to fill in some of the holes in the spider web we’re trying to complete in order to understand these new physical laws.”

Holley said that the research has been some two decades in the making with a number of people, including undergraduates. He said that one of the best parts of the work was having an opportunity to collaborate not only with graduate and post-doctoral students but also with Tennessee Tech undergraduates with their research of ultracold neutrons.

“An ultracold neutron is a standard old neutron that we’ve taken out of the nucleus and we’ve reduced its energy a lot,” Holley said. “And we’ve reduced its energy so much that it has properties that are very understandable. One of the reasons that the undergraduate students can work with them easily is that an ultracold neutron, one where the energy has been reduced to a very small level, basically they act essentially exactly like little bouncing balls, oddly enough.”

Holley said that the work helps years of work fill in gaps of what he calls a “spiderweb” of information.


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