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21 August 2020

Super-K developments facilitate powerful advancement in particle physics

King’s physicists hope to be able to make a more detailed study of neutrinos after modifying the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector tank, and introducing the rare earth element gadolinium to the experiment.

Dr Teppei Katori
Dr Teppei Katori inside the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector tank

Super-Kamiokande (also known as Super-K) is a giant neutrino detector located underground in the Kamioka mine in Hida City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. It consists of a giant cylindrical stainless steel tank approximately 40m (131 ft) in height and diameter, and holds 50,000 tons of water. Recent refurbishment of Super-K by King’s scientists and the addition of gadolinium has improved the detector’s ability to observe the sea of neutrinos – known as ‘supernova relic neutrinos’ – which are produced by supernova explosions.

Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which are similar to electrons but with no electrical charge – they are one of the most abundant particles in the universe and are extremely difficult to detect. Studying these particles in Super-K will help detect dying stars and will be a vital tool in improving our understanding of the universe. These developments will facilitate further research in other aspects of particle physics including the matter-antimatter imbalance in the universe, as well as proton decay.

Elaborating on the opportunity that this development presents, Professor Francesca Di Lodovico, Professor of Particle Physics in the Department of Physics, commented;

The team at King’s is very involved in the study of supernovas and the gadolinium will offer an unique opportunity at several levels to understand the neutrinos coming from supernova, as well as the opportunity to enhance other studies like the matter-antimatter asymmetry which is another main topic of study for the group. This new phase of Super-K will open a wealth of exciting new physics that the group can’t wait to dig into.

In this story

Francesca Di Lodovico

Professor in Particle Physics

Dr Jeanne Wilson

Reader in Particle Physics