Scientists on hunt for muons turning into electrons

If found, the process would put in question the standard model.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The Mu2e experiment .jpg
The Mu2e experiment.


Scientists from Mu2e at Fermilab and COMET at J-PARC in Japan will join forces to conduct two experiments to see if muons can transform into electrons.

This is according to an article from published on Monday.

The research is based on past studies that have found that neutrinos can change flavors.

Three flavors

According to Nevis laboratories at Columbia University, neutrinos “come in three flavors: electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino.”

“Neutrinos gained their flavor state names because electron neutrinos interact with electrons, muon neutrinos interact with muons, and tau neutrinos interact with tau particles (electrons, muons, and tau particles are all elementary particles),” noted the institution.

“However, neutrinos travel as a mixture of the three flavor states which are known as the mass eigenstates. There are currently only three known mass eigenstates. They are called ν1, ν2, and ν3.”

In light of these facts, researchers are investigating whether the neutrinos' charged counterparts, electrons, muons, and tauons, can also change flavor.

To validate this theory, the scientists will “search for a negatively charged muon, the electron's more massive cousin, decaying into an electron;” stated  

The science news outlet reports this process will be able to be evaluated “even if the conversion probability is only 1 in 100 quadrillion.”

The new experiments will be 10,000 times more sensitive than previous ones and boast new physics information whose “results may tell scientists about interactions that might exist beyond the standard model.”

According to a press release by Fermilab, the new experiment is about one-third the length of a football field and infinitely more precise than previous experiment SINDRUM II which was also on the hunt for the muon-to-electron conversion.

Six independent observables

In the past a group of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst reported that the new experiments will be able to measure six independent observables.

“The six observables represent the "fingerprint" of the new physics and define a program of measurements that teams like Mu2e and COMET can complete. Once this program is carried out, particle theorists will have six new clues about possible physics missing from the standard model,” noted

If the experiments are successful in finally spotting a negatively charged muon decaying into an electron, the discovery would violate the standard model and potentially forever change physics. It would justify previous reports that have stated that the model is not up to par or is downright broken.

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