Our eyes are able to detect light, photons, but nothing else. However, the universe looks very different if we observe it by detecting other particles, such as neutrinos.
In our head, at mid-height, we have two fantastic particle detectors: our eyes. Specifically, they are able to detect photons, which are nothing more than the particles that make up light. However, they are not able to detect just any kind of photon, only those with an energy within a very small range, what we call the “visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum” or simply “visible light”. In addition to this visible part there are, of course, two invisible parts. The one comprising photons with more energy than visible light and the one corresponding to photons with less energy.
These photon detectors that are our eyes help us to move through the world (although they are not strictly necessary for this) and to perceive our surroundings. Of course, most of the photons we end up detecting originate from the Sun. But the Sun not only emits photons, light, but also other particles. On the one hand, the solar wind, made up of charged particles (mainly electrons and protons), and on the other hand, it emits huge amounts of neutrinos. These particles are especially difficult to detect, but despite this, the Sun emits so many of them that we have been able to photograph it (or rather neutrinograph it) using only these particles, obtaining something like this…
Seen like this, this image of the Sun would seem to be no great landmark, as it does not allow us to distinguish any obvious features and it is not of very good photographic quality. But nothing could be further from the truth. This picture is capable of giving us an astonishing amount of information, but to explain it first we need to clarify a couple of points.
First: what are neutrinos and why are they so difficult to detect? Neutrinos are subatomic particles that only interact through weak nuclear and gravitational interactions. Gravitational because nothing escapes their influence, but weak and only weak because they have no electric charge or colour charge (which is affected by the strong nuclear interaction). This weak nuclear interaction has a very small range. That is, its intensity decreases very fast with distance. So much so that it barely becomes effective for distances similar to the size of a proton, or on the order of a billionth of a metre (10-15 m). This means that trillions of neutrinos from the Sun are able to pass through the Earth every second without interacting with any of its constituent particles (mainly electrons, protons and neutrons). It also means that any neutrino is able to pass through a light-year-thick block of lead with only a 50% chance of hitting any of its atoms.
However, although it is so unlikely that they will interact with anything and thus be detected, the number of neutrinos that reach us is so enormous that some of them end up interacting and an even smaller percentage being detected. The question now is: How is the Sun capable of producing trillions of neutrinos per second?
These particles are produced during the different nuclear fusion processes that keep the star going and make it shine. For example, during the fusion of four hydrogen nuclei (each consisting of one proton) into one helium nucleus (consisting of two protons and two neutrons), two very energetic neutrinos are emitted. These neutrinos are produced as a consequence of the different conservation laws that apply to all fundamental particles.
When two protons fuse and one of them becomes a neutron in the process, certain particles are emitted that “counteract” the changes in the nature of these particles. For example, the electric charge must be conserved, so a positron, which has a positive electric charge like the original proton, will also be emitted. In addition, the leptonic charge must be conserved, so a neutrino will also be emitted.
Given the incredible amounts of hydrogen that are transformed into helium every second, it is not surprising that so many neutrinos are emitted from the Sun. But what is so special about these neutrinos? As mentioned above, these particles are able to pass through matter without being affected. This will mean that they will also be able to pass through the Sun itself undisturbed. It is in the core of the star that nuclear fusion processes take place and thus where the neutrinos and other particles are produced.
It is estimated that a photon produced in this central region will take, after countless collisions and re-emissions, about a hundred thousand years to reach the surface of the Sun. However, a neutrino, which will travel at almost the speed of light and will not be stopped by anything, will leave the Sun in just two seconds. Therefore, the picture above, although of poorer quality than those taken with conventional telescopes, will be a direct snapshot of the star’s core.
Thanks to images like this one, we can study this region that would be inaccessible by any other method and, in the process, test our models of star formation and evolution. Neutrino astronomy is a relatively new field in astronomy, but it has already yielded incredible results, for example allowing us to observe supernovae through their neutrino emission. In the future, if our detectors improve sufficiently, we may be able to detect the very neutrinos that decoupled from the rest of the universe after their first second of life, after the Big Bang.
After reading this far, you may be wondering to yourself, “Is that all there is to it?” Is it just some new discoveries in the fields of science and astronomy and some educational science talk? Is that all those neutrinos can do? And the answer to that is definitely No. Neutrinos’ potential is endless and they are unimaginably important to us now more than ever.
Neutrino Energy: The Missing Link in Our Drive to Net-Zero
It is common knowledge that renewable sources of energy are the technology of the future. We are all aware that our supply of fossil fuels is not unlimited, despite the fact that nobody knows how much coal, oil, or natural gas there is left in the planet. However, fossil fuels are harmful to the environment.
Currently, however, the renewable energy industry is caught in a quagmire. To make energy sources like wind and solar energy capable of supporting entire energy grids, there has to be many changes and more money and time has to be invested in them, but the problem is that even after doing that, it won’t be enough since unfortunately, these energy sources have many shortcomings.
To that end, after the astounding revelation revealed a few years ago by two scientists in Japan and Canada that neutrinos do, in fact, have mass, humanity was guided toward a future in which fossil fuels would be entirely worthless. Since then, scientists from all around the world have been trying to harness the power of neutrinos and other non-visible radiations for the purpose of energy generation.
Scientists such as those that are working at The Neutrino Energy Group, which has been hard at work improving its neutrinovoltaic technology to assist the energy now produced by wind farms, solar arrays, and other sustainable energy projects, which will revolutionize the way we think about renewable energy during the next several years.
As opposed to other renewable energy sources in terms of efficiency and dependability, neutrinovoltaic technology does not have the same shortcomings. Due to the fact that neutrinos and other non-visible radiation are able to pass through almost every known material, neutrinovoltaic cells do not require exposure to sunlight in order to work effectively. They are appropriate for use both indoors and outdoors, as well as underwater, making them very versatile.
This technology is not negatively affected by snow or other inclement weather because of the simplicity with which neutrinovoltaic cells may be shielded while they produce electricity. Furthermore, neutrinovoltaic cells do not depend on visible light for their operation, meaning they can continue to create the same amount of energy even if the number of daylight hours is greatly decreased.
Neutrinovoltaic technology offer a consistent supply of power since they are not affected by changes in the environment or seasonal changes. As a consequence, there is no longer a need for storing energy in battery storage.
Thanks to Neutrino Energy Group’s Neutrinovoltaic Technology, humanity now has a long-awaited and trustworthy solution to the current energy crisis. More substantial changes will take place, and we will live in a better and more environmentally friendly world in the years to come.