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Studying the Earth with Geoneutrinos

DOI: 10.1155/2013/425693

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Geoneutrinos, electron antineutrinos from natural radioactive decays inside the Earth, bring to the surface unique information about our planet. The new techniques in neutrino detection opened a door into a completely new interdisciplinary field of neutrino geoscience. We give here a broad geological introduction highlighting the points where the geoneutrino measurements can give substantial new insights. The status-of-art of this field is overviewed, including a description of the latest experimental results from KamLAND and Borexino experiments and their first geological implications. We performed a new combined Borexino and KamLAND analysis in terms of the extraction of the mantle geo-neutrino signal and the limits on the Earth's radiogenic heat power. The perspectives and the future projects having geo-neutrinos among their scientific goals are also discussed. 1. Introduction The newly born interdisciplinar field of neutrino geoscience takes the advantage of the technologies developed by large-volume neutrino experiments and of the achievements of the elementary particle physics in order to study the Earth interior with new probe geoneutrinos. Geoneutrinos are electron antineutrinos released in the decays of radioactive elements with lifetimes comparable with the age of the Earth and distributed through the Earth’s interior. The radiogenic heat released during the decays of these Heat Producing Elements (HPE) is in a well fixed ratio with the total mass of HPE inside the Earth. Geoneutrinos bring to the Earth’s surface an instant information about the distribution of HPE. Thus, it is, in principle, possible to extract from measured geoneutrino fluxes several geological information completely unreachable by other means. This information concerns the total abundance and distribution of the HPE inside the Earth and thus the determination of the fraction of radiogenic heat contribute to the total surface heat flux. Such a knowledge is of critical importance for understanding complex processes such as the mantle convection, the plate tectonics, and the geodynamo (the process of generation of the Earth’s magnetic field), as well as the Earth formation itself. Currently, only two large-volume, liquid-scintillator neutrino experiments, KamLAND in Japan and Borexino in Italy, have been able to measure the geoneutrino signal. Antineutrinos can interact only through the weak interactions. Thus, the cross-section of the inverse-beta decay detection interaction: is very low. Even a typical flux of the order of geoneutrinos ? leads to only a hand-full number of


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