Proton decay

hypothetical decay process of a nucleon (proton or neutron) into non-nucleons (anything else)

Proton decay is a hypothetical phenomenon in which the proton decays into a positron and neutral pion (in the proton's most probable mode of decay).


  • Baryon-number-violating processes, including proton decay, and the existence of superpartners are dramatic, make-or-break predictions ... Either would open new worlds of phenomena to investigation. According to our best estimates, neither proton decay nor superpartners lie beyond the reach of a heroic search. They should be found, well within 100 years.
  • It is commonly believed that grand unified theories (GUTs) predict proton decay. This is because the exchange of extra GUT gauge bosons gives rise to dimension 6 proton decay operators. We show that there exists a class of GUTs in which these operators are absent. Many string and supergravity models in the literature belong to this class.
  • Besides non-zero neutrino masses, the other classic experimental implication of unification is proton instability, with a very long but perhaps not inaccessible lifetime. That prediction has not yet been verified, despite heroic efforts. The existing limits put significant pressure on the framework. Reading it optimistically: There is an excellent chance that further efforts along this line would be rewarded.
  • Proton decays into a positron and neutral pion, pe+π0, are a dominant decay mode in many GUT models. It also has a very clean experimental signature in a water Cherenkov detector with full reconstruction of the event. After decades of search, the sensitivity is still improving with advancement of detector technology and analysis technique. One of examples for such a technique is the background suppression with the neutron tagging. In the proton decay events, the probability of neutron emission is rather small, while in the atmospheric neutrino events, which is the dominant background of proton decay searches, often neutrons are produced. Thus, neutron tagging can provide an additional handle to suppress the background for the proton decay search and improve the sensitivity.
  • Masashi Yokoyama and Proto-collaboration: (2017). "The Hyper-Kamiokande Experiment". arXiv preprint arXiv:1705.00306.

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