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Scientists show off digital neutrino beam that can transmit through practically anything

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Tired of having your Wi-Fi signal degraded by the office walls? Scientists at Fermiab, a particle physics research facility in Illinois, have devised a means of digital communications that promises to be able travel through practically anything.

They successfully sent a digital signal using a beam of neutrinos (last seen causing the folks at CERN headaches) through hundreds of metres of solid rock.

Scientists have long understood that neutrinos are capable of passing through pretty much anything - even if there's been some question of how quickly they do so. But while that makes it easy to transmit a beam of neutrinos, the difficult bit is detecting them at the other end.

The researchers blasted a beam of neutrinos through subterranean rock to a detector some 240 metres away, using a simple digital code to transmit the word “neutrino”.

“An overall data rate of about 0.1 Hz was realised, with an error rate of less than one per cent for transmission of neutrinos through a few hundred meters of rock,” wrote the Fermilab team in a paper submitted to the ArXiv, a repository for non-peer reviewed science papers.

The team think that the technology could eventually find uses in submarine communications, where the difficulty of transmitting a coherent signal through sea water severely curtails data speeds. It could also potentially be used for inter-stellar communication, the team noted.

That said, there's clearly a deal of work to be done before if becomes a practical technology. The detector used in the experiment, which was housed in a cavern some 100 meters underground, weighs approximately 170 tons.

Not even Captain Nemo would be so foolhardy as to stick such a hefty bit of kit on his sub.  

16 Mar 2012

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