$3 Billion Experiment Involving US Tunnels May Help Unravel Questions About the Universe

$3 Billion Experiment Involving US Tunnels May Help Unravel Questions About the Universe
$3 Billion Experiment Involving US Tunnels May Help Unravel Questions About the Universe

Africa-Press – South-Sudan. Not to be confused with Frank Herbert’s science fiction franchise, DUNE is an international experiment for studying neutrinos, which may help unravel the secrets of the universe.

The DUNE project—Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment—is an “international flagship” project aimed at studying neutrinos. The project is being led by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Fermilab and will require the use of tunnels beneath the US state of South Dakota.

As a result of the estimated $3 billion project, crews that began excavating 800,000 tons of rock out of the former gold mine now have three underground caverns that are 500 feet long, and almost tall enough to hold a seven-story building.

“The actual excavation took only a year, which is amazing,” said Jaehoon Yu, professor of physics at UTA, which is helping to make the colossal detectors. “It’s great that the excavation work is finished and now preparations can be made for the installation of the detectors. This is an exciting time.”

That excavation work has recently been completed, and the next step is to install the first of four particle detectors about a mile below the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota, according to a release from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA).

Particle accelerators at Fermilab outside Chicago, Illinois will first fire an extremely powerful beam of neutrinos through a detector at Fermilab. That beam will then travel underground for 800 miles to the detector at the South Dakota Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Neutrinos are sometimes referred to as “ghost particles”, and are incredibly difficult to study. They live all around us, and pass through us, unnoticed. The existence of neutrinos was first theorized in 1930, but experimenters only discovered the subatomic particles 26 years later. They are tiny, neutral and weigh so little that it is impossible to measure their mass.

But they are also the most abundant particles that have been made in the universe. They are created by the sun, supernovae, and are even produced by the natural radioactivity of potassium in bananas.

“If you hold your hand up, there are 10 billion neutrinos from the sun going through your hand” every second, said physicist Mary Bishai and spokesperson for DUNE.

Those in the DUNE experiment hope their research will help them discover why the universe is composed of matter instead of antimatter, how an exploding star creates a black holes, and answer the question as to whether or not protons decay.

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