Million-pound grant for Bristol physicists to investigate matter and anti-matter

The funding is part of the latest UK multi-million pound investment in the DUNE global science project that brings together the scientific communities of the UK and 31 countries from Asia, Europe and the Americas to build the world’s most advanced neutrino observatory. The DUNE project has the potential to lead to profound changes in our understanding of the universe.

DUNE (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) is a flagship international experiment hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab.

Jonas Rademacker , Professor of Physics at the University of Bristol is the current Bristol DUNE project Principal Investigator.

“The DUNE experiment will study neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos, in unprecedented detail. The results might finally explain why the matter and antimatter created in the big bang did not almost completely annihilate and disappear, and why instead, enough matter was left over to create galaxies, stars, planets, and us humans to look at it all.”

The 40kt DUNE detector, located 1 mile underground in a former gold mine in South Dakota, will study an intense beam of neutrinos sent 1300km through the earth’s crust from Fermilab. The experiment will also watch for the intense flash of neutrinos produced when a star explodes and turns into a neutron star or a black hole, and will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay. Proton decay is predicted in many theories bringing us closer to fulfilling the dream of a grand unified theory.

Dr Jim Brooke , who will soon take over the role of PI from colleague Professor Rademacker, said:

“It is incredibly exciting to be part of DUNE. Neutrinos are not well understood, and DUNE will measure them to exquisite precision. However, it is going to produce data at a colossal rate, far higher than we can store and analyse. Here in Bristol, we are drawing on our experience from the Large Hadron Collider, to build a system that can identify neutrino interactions in the data, almost in real-time. This will allow us to choose which data is stored for further analysis, and which data to throw away. It’s really important we get this right - there is no recycle bin, so the data we reject is lost forever!”

Professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold, head of the Particle Physics Group at the University of Manchester as well as DUNE Co-Spokesperson, said that DUNE would help to answer fundamental questions that overlap particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.

Professor Alfons Weber from the University of Oxford who is leading the project in the UK, said:

“DUNE will be an exciting experiment and it is fantastic to see how the UK is supporting fundamental science. This announcement has allowed us to take a lead in many aspects of the experiment as the biggest contributor outside the USA. We have a significant task ahead of us in the coming years and we are looking forward to delivering our contributions.”

The UK universities involved in the project are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex, UCL and Warwick.

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