XENON1T Dark Matter Experiment Detects Unexplained Excess Events, Prepares Upgrades

Scientists from the international XENON collaboration announced on June 17 that data from their XENON1T detector, the world’s most sensitive dark matter experiment, shows a surprising excess of events. These events may suggest the existence of a new particle known as the solar axion or indicate previously unknown properties of neutrinos. While the scientists do not claim to have found dark matter, the source of the observed unexpected rate of events is not yet fully understood. The signature of the excess is similar to what might result from a tiny residual amount of tritium—a hydrogen atom with one proton and two neutrons—but could also be a sign of something more exciting: the solar axion.

TU Wien Researchers Discover New Magnetoelectric Effect

Physicists at TU Wien in Vienna have discovered a new magnetoelectric effect in an unexpected material: a so-called langasite made of lanthanum, gallium, silicon and oxygen doped with holmium atoms. The electrical properties of some crystals can be influenced by magnetic fields—and vice versa. These "magnetoelectric effects" can play an important technological role in certain types of sensors or in the search for new concepts of data storage. The announcement was made on September 14.

New NASA Gears Can Withstand Impact, Freezing Temperatures during Lunar Missions

A joint NASA JPl/Caltech project is developing special gears that can withstand the extreme temperatures experienced during missions to the Moon and beyond. Many exploration destinations in our solar system are frigid and require hardware that can withstand the extreme cold. During NASA’s Artemis missions, temperatures at the Moon’s South Pole will drop drastically during the lunar night. Farther into the solar system, on Jupiter’s moon Europa, temperatures never rise above -260 ºF (-162 ºC) at the equator. NASA’s Bulk Metallic Glass Gears (BMGG) project team is creating material made of “metallic glass” for gearboxes that can function in and survive extreme cold environments without heating, which requires energy.

Technifab Introduces Updated Automatic Dewar Filling Station

Technifab Products (CSA CSM), a producer of cryogenic equipment and systems, released the latest version of their Automatic Fill Station, the AFS-01. The system is designed to fill portable low pressure liquid nitrogen dewars from a pipe system or bulk tank. The AFS-01 puts an emphasis on three main points: eliminating overfill and loss of liquid nitrogen, ease of use while providing a safe and convenient system and compact design that can easily be placed where most convenient.

APS designates Sanford Lab, Morgan State University as historic physics sites

On September 14, the American Physical Society (APS) announced it has designated Sanford Lab Underground Research Facility (SURF) and Morgan State University as two Historic Sites in physics. SURF, located in Lead SD, is being recognized for its role in neutrino research led by Ray Davis while Morgan State University in Baltimore MD is being recognized as the birthplace of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP). The APS Historic Sites Initiative works to increase public awareness of noteworthy physics-related events and discoveries.

Lab Researcher and Physics Undergrad Creates Poster Project Honoring Black Physicists

Inspired by the nation’s grappling with issues of race and racial discrimination, UC Berkeley physics major and Berkeley Lab student assistant Ana Lyons turned to art as a way to contribute to the conversation. Aware of the scientific community’s own self-reflection for its history of racial inequity and discrimination, Lyons found solace and positivity in a poster project honoring the contributions of Black American physicists. The project will feature a series of 12 posters, and she has already completed her first set of six.

LIGO, Virgo Detect Most Massive Gravitational-Wave Source Yet

On September 2, researchers at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) in California and Virgo Interferometer have detected a signal from what may be the most massive black hole merger yet observed in gravitational waves. The product of the merger is the first clear detection of an “intermediate-mass” black hole, with a mass between 100 and 1,000 times that of the sun. They detected the signal, which they have labeled GW190521, on May 21, 2019, with the National Science Foundation’s LIGO detector, a pair of identical, 4-kilometer-long interferometers and Virgo, a 3-kilometer-long detector in Italy.

Pandemic’s Global Slowdown Relieves Helium Industry Pressure

Last September, Cold Facts examined the then-ongoing third global helium shortage (Cold Facts, Vol. 35, Number 4) as it forced the world to reconsider the myriad applications and processes utilizing helium. Now, as the pandemic slows the global economy, helium users and experts are reconsidering what the future of helium may be. On July 21, Cold Facts spoke with Phil Kornbluth, founder and president of Kornbluth Helium Consulting, about the new landscape of the industry and whether or not the industrial gas community can safely claim the end of the helium shortage.

CERN Identifies Rare Higgs Boson Decay into Two Muons

On August 2, at the 40th International Conference on High Energy Physics in Prague, CERN’s ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiments jointly announced new results which show that the Higgs boson decays into two muons—“heavier” second-generation copies of electrons. A first-of-its-kind observation, the process of the Higgs boson decaying into muons is a rare phenomenon as only about one Higgs boson in 5000 decays into muons. These new results have pivotal importance for fundamental physics as they indicate that the Higgs boson interacts with second-generation elementary particles.

Supercooled Ion Trap Measures Vibrational Frequency in Hydrogen

An international research collaboration headed by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) scientist Jeroen Koelemeij developed a new method to measure vibrational frequencies in the molecular hydrogen ion (HD+) at 400 times higher precision than before. The technique enables an improved understanding of the fundamental laws of physics and particles such as the proton—topics which recently have been subject to debate. The study was published in Science on July 30.

Foundations of Cryocoolers Virtual Webinars

Plan now to join us for this in-depth exploration of all things cryocoolers! Normally presented in conjunction with the International Cryocooler Conference, the educational and experience-based Foundations of Cryocoolers Short Course is moving online with ICC. Perfect for cryogenic veterans and students alike, this online course will provide an invaluable base from which to improve either your ICC experience or understanding of cryocoolers for industrial, research or commercial applications!

ICCRT Postponed to 2021

Following restrictions imposed by Romanian Government to limit Covid19 outbreaks, including guidelines for organized indoor events, organizers of the International Conference on Cryocooler and Refrigeration Technologies were unfortunately constrained and made the decision to postpone the conference originally planned for October 7-10, 2020, in Bucharest to next year—the exact date will be announced in the future.