Academic Lecture: No Nus is Good Nus: Steps Towards the Ultimate Experiment to Search for Nothing


Title:No Nus is Good Nus: Steps Towards the Ultimate Experiment to Search for Nothing 
Speaker:Prof.Steve Biller (University of Oxford) 
Chair:Prof. Wen Liangjian 
Time:10:00 AM, 27th September, 2019 
Location:C305, main building 

One of the highest scientific priorities in particle physics and cosmology is to identify whether neutrinos are "Majorana" particles, distinguished from their anti-particles only by the direction of their helicity. This concept lies at the heart of the so-called See-Saw mechanism that attempts to explain the smallness of the neutrino mass scale to various Grand Unification frameworks that attempt to unify the fundamental forces of nature, and to models of leptogenesis that seek to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the Universe (and how it side-stepped annihilation to exist at all). The only known experimental approach that can potentially address this question is to look for the process of “neutrinoless double beta decay.” But this is a very challenging experimental area and a meaningful test may require instruments that are several orders of magnitude more sensitive than any current devices. This talk will describe progress in the development of tellurium loading and associated liquid scintillator technology as a highly scalable method to search for neutrinoless double beta decay that may eventually lead to a practical experiment capable of probing the non-degenerate neutrino mass hierarchy. 

About the speaker: 
Steve Biller got undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, where he worked on the IMB proton decay experiment under Larry Sulak. Then graduate school at the University of California, Irvine, where he was a student of Herb Chen (founder of SNO) and did some early work with Herb on liquid argon TPC development. He finished his PhD work in Los Alamos in the area of ground-based gamma-ray astronomy with Gaurang Yodh. He then received a NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue working in that field at the University of Leeds in the UK. He ended up in Oxford as a UK co-spokesperson on SNO (a nice circular twist that let him help see through Herb's vision). He subsequently led a group of UK institutions to join SNO+. In 2012, when Mark Chen visited him in Oxford on sabbatical, he asked Mark whether anyone had really looked into loading tellurium in scintillator for neutrinoless double beta decay… and this has been his main focus ever since.