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Construction Begins On Experiment To Understand Neutrinos
August 11, 2017

In a unique groundbreaking ceremony on July 21st at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, S.D., an international group of dignitaries, scientists and engineers marked the start of construction of a massive experiment that could change our understanding of the universe. The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) will house the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which will be built and operated by roughly 1,000 scientists and engineers from 30 countries.

This illustration shows the 800-mile/1300-kilometer path from Fermilab to the Sanford Underground Research Facility, straight through the earth. Credit: Fermilab

“With the groundbreaking for the LBNF and DUNE projects, the United States is taking the lead in further unveiling the elusive neutrino particle. Los Alamos scientists, who have been performing R&D on liquid argon as the target material, and on accurately monitoring the neutrino beam for this project will continue to bring their well-honed skills to continue to play a vital role in this exciting national program,” said Rajan Gupta, a Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist.

When complete, LBNF/DUNE will be the largest experiment ever built in the United States to study the properties of neutrinos. Unlocking the mysteries of these particles could explain more about how the universe works and why matter exists at all.

Neutrinos are the most abundant matter particles in the universe, yet little is known about their role in the way the universe evolved. For DUNE, Fermilab will send a beam of neutrinos through two detectors. One detector will record particle interactions near the source of the beam at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill. The beam will then travel 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) through the earth to a second detector that stands nearly four stories tall, built almost one mile underground, filled with 70,000 tons of liquid argon and cooled to -300 degrees Fahrenheit. This detector will take snapshots of interactions deep underground at Sanford Lab so scientists can study the interactions between neutrinos and argon atoms.

The international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment was conceived, designed and will be built by a team of 1,000 scientists and engineers from more than 160 institutions in 30 countries. Construction of large DUNE prototype detectors is already under way at the European research center CERN, a major partner in the project. CERN has also committed to providing the first cryostat to be built in South Dakota.

DUNE collaborators come from institutions in Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States.

This research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science in conjunction with CERN and international partners from nearly 30 countries.

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