Towards a first measurement of the free neutron bound beta decay detecting hydrogen atoms at a throughgoing beamtube in a high flux reactor
1 Physik-Department, Technische Universität München, 85748 Garching, Germany
2 Institut für Kernphysik, Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published online: 13 December 2019
In addition to the common 3-body decay of the neutron n → pe-ν̅e there should exist an effective 2-body subset with the electron and proton forming a Hydrogen bound state with well defined total momentum, total spin and magnetic quantum numbers. The atomic spectroscopic analysis of this bound system can reveal details about the underlying weak interaction as it mirrors the helicity distributions of all outgoing particles. Thus, it is unique in the information it carries, and an experiment unravelling this information is an analogue to the Goldhaber experiment performed more than 60 years ago. The proposed experiment will search for monoenergetic metastable BoB H atoms with 326 eV kinetic energy, which are generated at the center of a throughgoing beamtube of a high-flux reactor (e.g., at the PIK reactor, Gatchina). Although full spectroscopic information is needed to possibly reveal new physics our first aim is to prove the occurrence of this decay and learn about backgrounds. Key to the detection is the identification of a monoerergtic line of hydrogen atoms occurring at a rate of about 1 s−1 in the environment of many hydrogen atoms, however having a thermal distribution of about room temperature. Two scenarios for velocity (energy) filtering are discussed in this paper. The first builds on an purely electric chopper system, in which metastable hydrogen atoms are quenched to their ground state and thus remain mostly undetectable. This chopper system employs fast switchable Bradbury Nielsen gates. The second method exploits a strongly energy dependent charge exchange process of metastable hydrogen picking up an electron while traversing an argon filled gas cell, turning it into manipulable charged hydrogen. The final detection of hydrogen occurs through multichannel plate (MCP) detector. The paper describes the various methods and gives an outlook on rates and feasibility at the PIK reactor in Gatchina.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2019
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.