China to build giant detector of elusive particles

Chinese scientists intend to build a new neutrino detector in the ocean, occupying a volume of 30 cubic kilometers of water. It will consist of 55 thousand modules hanging in the water column. Physicists hope that this will allow them to study elementary particles that usually remain completely invisible.

The Ice Cube Observatory, exploring neutrinos. Source:

Elusive particles

A consortium of Chinese scientists is going to build a giant neutrino detector in the ocean. Its goal will be to study tiny elementary particles that are born in many natural processes both on earth and far away in space, but about which we still know nothing. 

In fact, neutrinos are three different types of particles that are born in completely different physical processes. What they have in common is that they all have neither mass nor charge. And therefore they practically do not interact with the rest of the substance. 

A neutrino can travel millions of light-years and dozens of stars through before it interacts with any atom. Therefore, the main problem with them is to catch at least something. Scientists have already developed several ways to capture them, which are used in existing detectors.

Neutrino detectors

The first method is to use tetrachloroethylene. Neutrinos react relatively well with chlorine-37 atoms in its composition, turning them into argon-37 and ordinary detectors can see this. But it is difficult to create a large detector in this way, so a different phenomenon has been used in recent years.

Sometimes, a neutrino very rarely interacts with an ordinary water molecule, knocking out high-energy electrons from it. There is a so-called Cherenkov radiation, which can be registered. It is on this principle that all neutrino observatories built in recent years work: IceCube, KM4Net, Lake Baikal.

Detector with a volume of 30 cubic meters

But the interaction of neutrinos with water really happens very rarely. Therefore, Chinese scientists decided to build an observatory in which the interaction of neutrinos with water with a volume of 30 cubic kilometers would be monitored. 

They will place it directly in the ocean. The observatory will consist of 55 thousand individual detectors, which will be assembled into vertically descending strands into the sea. In total, there should be about 2,300 of them.

All this is done not only because of the neutrinos, but also for solving the mystery of cosmic gamma rays. For more than a hundred years, scientists have suspected that high-energy gamma-ray particles can be born as a result of the same processes as tiny invisibles. 

But what these processes are and how they proceed is unknown. Therefore, scientists are interested in making observations on the new detector in parallel with the study of gamma rays. If they can clearly link these two phenomena, then their source will also be identified.

According to

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time