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Particle Physics Program
  • Neutrinos


    The 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Arthur McDonald and Takaaki Kajita for discovering that neutrinos have mass. Five PNNL researchers played a role in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment led by McDonald. The Project 8 experiment will soon try to measure the value of the neutrino mass.

  • Collider-based Physics

    Collider-based Physics

    Particles that collide at high energy give us a glimpse of the same processes that happened shortly after the Big Bang, when the universe was very small, hot, and dense. Large particle colliders re-create these conditions, PNNL experts are contributing to the design, construction, and data analysis of—Belle II and ILC—both in Japan.

  • Dark Matter

    Dark Matter

    Precision experiments suggest that dark matter comprises more than 80 percent of the mass content and 25 percent of the energy content of the universe, and it is detected by its gravitational effect on visible matter and on the curvature of space, but its nature is unknown. PNNL participates in different experiments to learn more about the particles that make up dark matter.

  • 2015 Key Accomplishments cover

    2015 Key Accomplishments in PNNL's Science Mission

    This brochure captures a selection of the most noteworthy scientific achievements by PNNL scientists in 2015.

  • Breakthrough Prize

    Breakthrough Prize

    The 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was presented for the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations. PNNL physicists played a role in the neutrino research at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, one of the recipients of the Breakthrough Prize.

Particle Physics
Understanding the composition of the universe

Particle physics is the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces of nature. The frontiers of particle physics are advanced through cathedral-sized detector systems, novel materials, and high-performance computer systems. The particle physics program at PNNL is built upon capability in detector design, data-intensive analysis and simulation, low background materials, radiochemistry, and precision assays. PNNL scientists apply this experience and technology to address the key scientific questions in particle physics today.

Dark Matter

From cosmological observations since the 1930s we understand the universe contains matter that makes up the stars and planets and dark matter. This particle could be detected by the Axion Dark Matter Experiment (ADMX), which aims to convert axions into microwave photons. Other possible dark matter particles are called "weakly interacting massive particles" (WIMPs), which can be detected by bouncing off atoms in a crystal. PNNL's team leads the design of detectors sensitive enough to measure extremely rare interactions with these particles as the earth travels through the galactic dark matter, which could even be made up of axions and WIMPS.

Neutrino Physics

Wolfgang Pauli hypothesized neutrinos in 1930 to balance energy and momentum in nuclear beta decays. Although they were detected experimentally in 1956, we still do not understand much about them.

Collider-based Experiments

Through the current and future experiments recording hundreds of billions of collisions, physicists hope to find out more about Dark Matter, why there is more matter than anti-matter, and why some quarks are hundred times heavier than others.

Particle Physics

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