When the gas decays, it emits electrons that can be trapped by a magnetic bottle, and a radio antenna can pick off signals by theses captive electrons.
This technique can allow researchers to map electrons precision activity over several milliseconds.
A research team has used this technique to record the activity of 100,000 individual electrons in krypton gas. Researchers observed that most of the electrons behave in a characteristic pattern.
As the gas decays, electrons are emitted and these vibrating electrons slowly calm down before being hit by more gas molecules thereby spiking again in frequency.
As the electrons ping pong against each other in the detector, their energy progresses in a simple step like pattern.
Joe Formaggio, an associate professor of physics at MIT said, “We can literally image the frequency of the electron, and we see this electron suddenly pop into our radio antenna, over time, the frequency changes, and actually chirps up. So these electrons are chirping in radio waves.”
The new method can be used by researchers to accomplish even greater tasks, like measuring the mass of the neutrino.
Neutrinos are the particles which pass through the body in groups of billions every second, but they are not detected. The theoretical mass of the neutrino is calculated by scientists but they are facing difficulty in gaining more insights into these particles.
Formaggio said, “We have [the mass] cornered, but haven’t measured it yet, the name of the game is to measure the energy of an electron — that’s your signature that tells you about the neutrino.”
When a radioactive atom decays, it turns into an isotope of helium and releases neutrino and electron, the energy of all the particles will be equal be total energy of parent neutrino, this indicates that if the energy of the electron is measured, it can reveal the mass of the neutrino.
A pat of the Experiment Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment or KATRIN, researchers will measure the electrons in the radioactive atom tritium using a massive spectrometer.
Daniel Furse, a graduate student in physics, and co-author the study said, “In KATRIN, the electrons are detected in a silicon detector, which means the electrons smash into the crystal, and a lot of random things happen, essentially destroying the electrons, we still want to measure the energy of electrons, but we do it in a nondestructive way.”
The new method is advantages to researchers because of its tiny tabletop size.
The findings of the study are published in journal Physical Review Letters.