How heavy is a neutrino?


Pfeiffer Vacuum and KATRIN

Neutrinos are one of the most fascinating types of elementary particles. They are among the lightest particles in the universe. Determining their mass has stretched the limits of physics research for many decades now. Neutrinos are the key, in fact, to many as yet unsolved scientific questions - ranging from the microcosmos of elementary particles to the biggest structures of our universe. For neutrinos can be described as cosmic architects; they play a role in shaping the visible structures of the universe and also influence the formation and distribution of galaxies.

To answer these fundamental questions of astrophysics and cosmology and obtain valuable information to allow us to understand elementary particles, it is crucially important to precisely identify the neutrino mass. The Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment, or KATRIN for short, has committed itself to achieving this objective.

For over 15 years now, more than 150 national and international experts have been working together on the KATRIN project to determine the neutrino mass through high-precision model-independent measurement of the kinematics of electrons during the beta decay of tritium. The experimental setup required for this purpose is currently being assembled on the campus at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The demands that high-precision experiments place on the technology of the test instruments used represent a huge challenge.

The imposing KATRIN main spectrometer tank
The imposing KATRIN main spectrometer tank

Experimental setup of the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (KATRIN)

KATRIN is 70 meters long in total and is made up of several sections containing five essential components:

  • A windowless tritium source
  • A transport section in which the tritium is removed with turbopumps and cryotraps and which leads the electrons to the spectrometer
  • An electrostatic pre-spectrometer
  • The gigantic electrostatic main spectrometer, and
  • An electron detector

Read more about this state of the art technology in the attached application report.
Should you have any further question, do not hesitate to contact us.

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