With the turning of a shovelful of earth a mile underground in South Dakota, a new era in international particle physics research officially began July 21.
In a unique groundbreaking ceremony at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, a group of dignitaries, scientists and engineers from around the world, including those from the University of Chicago and its affiliated Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, marked the start of construction of a massive international experiment that could change our understanding of the universe. The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility will house the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which will be built over the next 10 years and operated by a group of roughly 1,000 scientists and engineers from 30 countries.
As part of the collaboration, Fermilab will generate a beam of neutrinos and send them 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) through the earth to Sanford Lab, where a four-story-high, 70,000-ton detector will be built beneath the surface to catch those neutrinos.
“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,” said Nigel Lockyer, director of Fermilab. “This is a true landmark day and the start of a new era in global neutrino physics.”
When complete, the experiment will be the largest 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.
“Today is extremely exciting for all of us in the DUNE collaboration,” said Ed Blucher, professor of physics at the University of Chicago and the Enrico Fermi Institute and co-spokesperson for 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.”