Oscillating features in the electromagnetic structure of the neutron

The BESIII Collaboration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The complicated structure of the neutron cannot be calculated using first-principles calculations due to the large colour charge of quarks and the self-interaction of gluons. Its simplest structure observables are the electromagnetic form factors1, which probe our understanding of the strong interaction. Until now, a small amount of data has been available for the determination of the neutron structure from the time-like kinematical range. Here we present measurements of the Born cross section of electron–positron annihilation reactions into a neutron and anti-neutron pair, and determine the neutron’s effective form factor. The data were recorded with the BESIII experiment at centre-of-mass energies between 2.00 and 3.08 GeV using an integrated luminosity of 647.9 pb−1. Our results improve the statistics on the neutron form factor by more than a factor of 60 over previous measurements, demonstrating that the neutron form factor data from annihilation in the time-like regime is on par with that from electron scattering experiments. The effective form factor of the neutron shows a periodic behaviour, similar to earlier observations of the proton form factor. Future works—both theoretical and experimental—will help illuminate the origin of this oscillation of the electromagnetic structure observables of the nucleon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1200-1204
Number of pages5
JournalNature Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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