Construction begins on international science experiment hoped to unlock the mysteries of the universe
24 Jul 2017 11:20 AM
In a unique ground-breaking ceremony held yesterday at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota, a group of dignitaries, scientists and engineers from around the world marked the start of construction of a massive international experiment that could change our understanding of the universe. The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) will house the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which will be built and operated by a group of roughly 1,000 scientists and engineers from 30 countries, including many from the UK.
This milestone is the next chapter in a long history of UK research collaboration with the United States, particularly Fermilab, and when complete, LBNF/DUNE will be the largest experiment ever built in the United States to study the properties of mysterious particles called neutrinos. Unlocking the mysteries of these particles could help explain more about how the universe works, and why matter exists at all.
Executive Director of Programmes at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Grahame Blair, attended the event and yesterday said of the project: “The ground-breaking ceremony today is a significant milestone in what is an extremely exciting prospect for the UK scientific community.
"The DUNE project will delve deeper into solving the unanswered questions of our universe; opening the doors to a whole new set of tools to probe its constituents at a very fundamental level, indeed, even addressing how it came to be.
"International partnerships are key to building these leading-edge experiments, which explore the origins of the universe, and I am very happy to represent the UK research community here today.”
Mark Thomson, from the University of Cambridge and co-spokesperson of the DUNE collaboration yesterday said: “The international DUNE collaboration came together to realize a dream of a game-changing program of neutrino science; today represents a major milestone in turning this dream into reality."
The UK is a major contributor to the DUNE collaboration, with 14 UK universities and two STFC laboratories providing essential components to the experiment and facility. This ranges from the high-power neutrino production target, the readout planes and data acquisitions systems to the reconstruction software.
One aspect DUNE scientists will look for is the differences in behaviour between neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos, which could give us clues as to why we live in a matter-dominated universe – in other words, why we are all here, instead of having been annihilated just after the Big Bang. DUNE will also watch for neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which could reveal the formation of neutron stars and black holes, and will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay, bringing us closer to fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.
The DUNE experiment will attract students and young scientists from around the world, helping to foster the next generation of leaders in the field and to maintain the highly skilled scientific workforce worldwide.
STFC Media office
Illustrations and animations of the LBNF/DUNE project and its science goals are available at:
Dune Science website media section
Fermilab website media section
More information about the facility and experiment can be found at:
Dune Science website
UK involvement is through STFC and the following universities: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge (co-spokesperson), Durham, Imperial, Lancaster, Liverpool, UCL, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex and Warwick.
The University of Oxford is heavily involved in the planning and preparation of DUNE. Giles Barr is leading the overall effort to design the DAQ system for the far detector and Alfons Weber is the UK project leader and also co-leading the work package studying, which detectors are needed close to the production point to reduce systematic uncertainties.
Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC. Visit Fermilab’s website and follow them on Twitter at @Fermilab.