Scientific Highlights 2015

16 October 2015

Observation of Gravitationally Induced Vertical Striation of Polarized Ultracold Neutrons by Spin-Echo Spectroscopy

We describe a spin-echo method for ultracold neutrons (UCNs) confined in a precession chamber and exposed to a |B0| = 1μT magnetic field. We have demonstrated that the analysis of UCN spin-echo resonance signals in combination with knowledge of the ambient magnetic field provides an excellent method by which to reconstruct the energy spectrum of a confined ensemble of neutrons. The method takes advantage of the relative dephasing of spins arising from a gravitationally induced striation of stored UCNs of different energies, and also permits an improved determination of the vertical magnetic-field gradient with an exceptional accuracy of 1.1 pT/cm. This novel combination of a well-known nuclear resonance method and gravitationally induced vertical striation is unique in the realm of nuclear and particle physics and should prove to be invaluable for the assessment of systematic effects in precision experiments such as searches for an electric dipole moment of the neutron or the measurement of the neutron lifetime.
Facility: UCN

Reference: S. Afach et al, Physical Review Letters 115, 162502 (2015)

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18 May 2015

Constraining interactions mediated by axion-like particles with ultracold neutrons

We report a new limit on a possible short range spin-dependent interaction from the precise measurement of the ratio of Larmor precession frequencies of stored ultracold neutrons and 199Hg atoms confined in the same volume. The measurement was performed in a ∼1μT vertical magnetic holding field with the apparatus searching for a permanent electric dipole moment of the neutron at the Paul Scherrer Institute. A possible coupling between freely precessing polarized neutron spins and unpolarized nucleons of the wall material can be investigated by searching for a tiny change of the precession frequencies of neutron and mercury spins. Such a frequency change can be interpreted as a consequence of a short range spin-dependent interaction that could possibly be mediated by axions or axion-like particles. The interaction strength is proportional to the CP violating product of scalar and pseudoscalar coupling constants gSgP. Our result confirms limits from complementary experiments with spin-polarized nuclei in a model-independent way. Limits from other neutron experiments are improved by up to two orders of magnitude in the interaction range of 10−6 < λ < 10−4 m.
Facility: Particle Physics / UCN

Reference: S. Afach et al, Physics Letters B 745, 58 (2015)

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13 May 2015

Observation of the rare BS0 →μ+μ- decay from the combined analysis of CMS and LHCb data

The standard model of particle physics describes the fundamental particles and their interactions via the strong, electromagnetic and weak forces. It provides precise predictions for measurable quantities that can be tested experimentally. The probabilities, or branching fractions, of the strange B meson (BS0) and the B0 meson decaying into two oppositely charged muons (μ+ and μ-) are especially inter- esting because of their sensitivity to theories that extend the standard model. The standard model predicts that the BS0 →μ+μ- and B0 →μ+μ- decays are very rare, with about four of the former occurring for every billion Bs0 mesons produced, and one of the latter occurring for every ten billion B0 mesons. A difference in the observed branching fractions with respect to the predictions of the standard model would provide a direction in which the standard model should be extended. Before the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN started operating, no evidence for either decay mode had been found. Upper limits on the branching fractions were an order of magnitude above the standard model predictions. The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) and LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty) collaborations have performed a joint analysis of the data from proton–proton collisions that they collected in 2011 at a centre-of-mass energy of seven teraelectronvolts and in 2012 at eight teraelectronvolts. Here we report the first observation of the BS0 →μ+μ- decay, with a statistical significance exceeding six standard deviations, and the best measurement so far of its branching fraction. Furthermore, we obtained evidence for the B0 →μ+μ- decay with a statistical significance of three standard deviations. Both measurements are statistically compatible with standard model predictions and allow stringent constraints to be placed on theories beyond the standard model. The LHC experiments will resume taking data in 2015, recording proton–proton collisions at a centre-of-mass energy of 13 teraelectronvolts, which will approximately double the production rates of BS0 and B0 mesons and lead to further improvements in the precision of these crucial tests of the standard model.
Facility: Particle Physics

Reference: The CMS and LHCb collaborations, Nature 522, 68 (2015)

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