KATRIN will measure the neutrino mass in a model-independant way via ultrahigh precision measurements of the kinematics of electrons from beta-decay. So far, it is only known that neutrinos are massive, but there impact due to their precise mass on cosmological questions like large scale structure formation or their impact to find a consistent description of all elementary particle masses remains open.
Like many ultra-precision experiments KATRIN pushes state of the art technologies to its borders. Its wide spectrum of involved physics and engineering, varying for example from molecular physics to nuclear physics, or from cryogenics over vacuum engineering to material science, makes the special touch and fascination of such an experiment.
Contributions from ETP
To detect the subtle effects of a massive neutrino on the kinematics of the beta electrons requires on one hand the provision of a strong gaseous windowless Tritium source with well-known properties and precision control. On the other hand it requires a high resolution spectrometer (MAC-E filter) with large diameter (10 m) to analyze precisely the electron energies from the source. The ETP KATRIN members contribute by design, construction, simulation and analysis to all main components.