Particle physics research is crossing a milestone with plans to build a four-story, 70,000-ton neutrino detector a mile under the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota.
The unique groundbreaking ceremony took place on July 21, with a group of scientists, engineers and dignitaries from around the world officially marking the beginning of a gigantic international experiment that could change how the universe is understood. Also present were people from the University of Chicago and its affiliated Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, UChicago News reports.
The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility will be built to house the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), set to be completed in the next 10 years. It will be operated by around 1,000 scientists and engineers from more than 30 countries in a massive global collaboration.
Fermilab will generate a beam of neutrinos and send them 800 miles through to Sanford Lab, where the detector beneath the surface will catch them. Nigel Lockyer, director of Fermilab, said, “Fermilab is proud to host the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which bring together scientists from 30 countries in a quest to understand the neutrino.” He added,
This is a true landmark day and the start of a new era in global neutrino physics.
Upon completion, the structure will be the largest in the United States to study the mysterious particles called neutrinos. Studying these particles could provide more insight on how the universe works, and the existence of matter.
Ed Blucher, professor of physics at the University of Chicago and the Enrico Fermi Institute and co-spokesperson for the DUNE project, said, “Today is extremely exciting for all of us in the DUNE collaboration. It marks the start of an incredibly challenging and ambitious experiment, which could have a profound impact on our understanding of the universe.”
Since their discovery 61 years ago, neutrinos have become the most surprising subatomic particle, particularly their ability to oscillate between three different states. DUNE scientists intend to look into this behavior, along with antineutrinos, bringing the world one step closer to Einstein’s grand unified theory.