Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Improved Determination of the Neutron Lifetime



Jeffrey S. Nico, A. T. Yue, Maynard S. Dewey, David M. Gilliam, G L. Greene, A. Laptev, William M. Snow, F. E. Wiefeldt


The most precise determination of the neutron lifetime using the beam method was completed in 2005 and reported a result of tau_n = (886.3 ± 1.2 [stat] ± 3.2 [sys]) s. The dominant uncertainties were attributed to the absolute determination of the fluence of the neutron beam (2.7 s). The fluence was measured with a neutron monitor that counted the neutron-induced charged particles from absorption in a thin, well-characterized 6Li deposit. The detection efficiency of the monitor was calculated from the areal density of the deposit, the detector solid angle, and the ENDF/B-VI 6Li(n,t)4He thermal neutron cross section. In the current work, we have measured the detection efficiency of the same monitor used in the neutron lifetime measurement with a second, totally-absorbing neutron detector. This direct approach does not rely on the 6Li(n,t)4He cross section or any other nuclear data. The detection efficiency is consistent with the value used in 2005 but was measured with a precision of 0.057 %, which represents a five-fold improvement in the uncertainty. We have verified the temporal stability of the neutron monitor through ancillary measurements, allowing us to apply the measured neutron monitor efficiency to the lifetime result from the 2005 experiment. The updated lifetime is tau_n = (887.7 ± 1.2 [stat] ± 1.9 [sys]) s.
Physical Review Letters


cold neutrons, neutron lifetime, weak interactions, standard model test


Nico, J. , Yue, A. , Dewey, M. , Gilliam, D. , Greene, G. , Laptev, A. , Snow, W. and Wiefeldt, F. (2013), Improved Determination of the Neutron Lifetime, Physical Review Letters (Accessed May 18, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created December 2, 2013, Updated February 19, 2017