College News

UA Physics Professor Receives $1.2 Million Grant from Department of Energy

From the October 2019 Desktop News | UA physics professor Dr. Andreas Piepke recently received a grant of $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore the fundamental questions that have baffled physicists for decades.

Piepke and his team study neutrinos, a type of subatomic particle that’s unique for its lack of an electric charge.

“All other fundamental constituents of matter carry an electrical charge, and their antimatter particle is the opposite charge,” Piepke said. “But neutrinos are electrically neutral. Therefore, it’s difficult to distinguish them from their anti-particles. It is not even clear whether they have anti-matter partners at all. So we are performing an experiment to learn whether we are dealing with a form of matter that differs from all others.”

There’s a rule in physics that says particles and antimatter particles always appear or disappear in pairs. But if neutrinos have no charge and have no antimatter particle, it could violate that rule,

The experiment in question is currently being planned by several different groups around the world, including Piepke’s. The grant funds the team’s work at UA in developing an experiment to investigate this phenomenon.

“The scientific community believes this to be a priority,” Piepke said. “It’s also an interesting question scientifically. What we are planning to do is pretty much the only way that, in a practical sense, one can find out if neutrinos and anti-neutrinos are one and the same or not.”