UK researchers awarded 30m investment in global neutrino physics project

The UK has made a new, multi-million pound investment in the DUNE global science project, bringing 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.

DUNE (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) is a flagship international experiment that has the potential to lead to profound changes in our understanding of the universe. It is hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab , and will be designed and operated by a collaboration of over 1,000 physicists across 32 countries.

The investment from UK Research and Innovations’ Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is a four-year construction grant to 13 educational institutions and to STFC’s Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories. The grant represents the first of two stages to support the DUNE construction project in the UK which will run until 2026 and represent a total investment of 45M.

Various elements of the experiment are under construction across the world, with the UK taking a major role in contributing essential expertise and components to the experiment and facility. UK scientists and engineers will design and produce the principle detector components at the core of the DUNE detector, which will comprise four large tanks each containing 17,000 kg of liquid argon. The UK groups are also developing a state-of-the art, high speed data acquisition system to record the signals from the detector, together with the sophisticated software needed to interpret the data and provide the answers to the scientific questions.

Professor Alfons Weber from the University of Oxford , who is leading the project in the UK, says: “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 Birmingham team received 252,805 to provide essential contributions to the experiment. They are bringing their experience in data acquisition from experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider and Super Proton Synchrotron to the challenges of selecting and recording data from the DUNE detectors.

Dr Alan Watson, the Birmingham team leader, says: “DUNE is an exciting new direction for us, and offers a unique opportunity to answer fundamental questions in particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology”.

The DUNE project aims to advance our understanding of the origin and structure of the universe. It will study the behaviour of particles called neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos. This could provide insight as to why we live in a matter-dominated universe while anti-matter has largely disappeared.

DUNE will also watch for supernova neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which will allow the scientists to observe 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 UK universities involved in the project are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex, UCL and Warwick.

About DUNE

The international Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab, will provide insight into the origin of matter in the universe. LBNF will create the world’s most intense high-energy neutrino beam and send it 1300km from Fermilab in Illinois towards the 70,000 ton DUNE detector one mile underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota. Once constructed, LBNF and DUNE will operate for at least 15 years undertaking a broad and exciting science programme.

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, a joint partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, Inc.

UK involvement with the DUNE collaboration is through STFC and the following universities: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial, Lancaster, Liverpool, UCL, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex and Warwick. They provide essential expertise and components to the experiment and facility. This ranges from the high-power neutrino production target, the readout planes, accelerator development associated with PIP-II and data acquisitions systems to the reconstruction software.

STFC manages the UK’s investment in the international facility, giving UK scientists and engineers the chance to take a leading role in the management and development of the DUNE far detector and the LBNF beam line. The STFC Technology Department is also involved in the data acquisition system for the detector and in designing a high power neutrino production target.


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