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Particle Physics

Research Highlights

Particle physics is the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces of nature. PNNL is advancing the frontiers of nuclear and particle physics through the design and construction of cathedral-sized systems, novel materials, and high-performance computer systems. The particle physics program at PNNL is built from a foundation in low background materials, precision assays, radiochemistry, detector design, microwave detection, remote handling, irradiation testing, and data-intensive, high-performance computing.

All the mass that has ever been seen only amounts to about 25 percent of the total mass in the universe. Through astronomical observations we have learned that there must be a new constituent of matter (known as dark matter). PNNL scientists are trying to answer such basic questions as:

  • What is the dark matter observed in the universe?
  • Is it a particle that we can measure in nature, and can we make it?

What do we know about the second most abundant particle in the universe?

The neutrino is the second most abundant particle in the universe next to the photon, yet we do not completely understand its properties. PNNL scientists are working to answer even some of the most basic questions about the neutrino:

  • What is the mass of the electron neutrino?
  • Is the neutrino its own anti-particle, or where are all the right-handed neutrinos?
  • How many neutrino flavors are there?

It's a matter of asymmetry

A long-standing question in the creation of our universe is: Why is there only matter and nearly zero anti-matter at the current time in our universe? PNNL scientists have a leading role in a joint US-Japan program to search for the reasons for this asymmetry.

Particle Physics

Research Areas

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