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Building the future of neutrino detectors at Daresbury Laboratory

Work to build a factory at Daresbury Laboratory to supply the DUNE (Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) project is well underway; with the new build on schedule to begin production later this year.

What is DUNE?

DUNE (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) is a flagship international experiment hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab, which will be designed and operated by a collaboration of over 1,000 physicists across 32 countries.

Once complete, the DUNE detector will live a mile underground at the Sandford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. It will receive a high energy neutrino beam from Fermilab in Illinois, 1,300km away, and will be able to record the neutrinos with unprecedented precision.

Professor Stefan Söldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester, a spokesperson for the international DUNE collaboration, commented: “DUNE has the unique potential to answer fundamental questions that overlap particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.”

Daresbury Laboratory in the frame

The UK is taking a major role in contributing essential expertise and components for DUNE. This includes the production of 150 anode plane assemblies (APAs) at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory. The APAs are the principle detector components at the core of the DUNE detector.

The APAs are large rectangular steel frames covered with approximately 4,000 wires. At 2.3m x 6.3m, each frame is roughly the size of five full-size pool tables. They are used to read the signal from particle tracks generated inside the liquid-argon detector – four tanks each containing 17,000kg of liquid argon.

With so many precisely wound wires on the frame, the APA is reminiscent of a harp. When complete all the wires must be tested for tension. Members of the team working on them are now able to recognise if they are near the correct tension by measuring the natural frequency of the wires when they 'pluck’ them!

In order to build the APAs, a factory is currently being constructed at the Daresbury Laboratory site. Situated inside the inner hall, the purpose-built factory will have a pre-processing area, four winding machines, each with a swing arm crane, 10 process carts, a separate packing and shipping area for the completed elements.

Once it is complete there will be equivalent to 39 individuals from Daresbury Laboratory and partner universities working to construct the APAs.

An international partnership

Before Christmas, a UK partnership meeting took place at Daresbury Laboratory. It was a chance to update partners on the construction process and discuss next steps, such as staffing the production.

Over in America, three more factories will be constructed, in order to produce another 150 APAs. Later this month, there will be a facilities review onsite. Colleagues from Fermilab, Yale University, University of Chicago and Physical Sciences Laboratory, University of Wisconsin (PSL) will tour the factory site and talk with the Daresbury team about the process and any learnings they can implement on their own sites. For example, all sites must use the same winding equipment, based on an original which was designed at PSL. However, after using it to build the first two APAs, the experts at Daresbury tweaked the design to make the winding machines more autonomous and user-friendly. They have also improved the winding head to include an active tension control system – thereby providing the capability to hold the tension more accurately throughout winding process. These changes have been tested and are now being commissioned on site at Daresbury, with the three American sites poised to adopt the updated design also.

The latest investment from UK Research and Innovation is a four-year construction grant to 13 educational institutions and to STFC’s Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories. This grant, of £30M, 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.

UK involvement with the DUNE collaboration is through STFC and 14 universities: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial, Lancaster, Liverpool, UCL, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex and Warwick.

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 Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) beam line. 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.

You can find out more about STFC’s involvement in DUNE and LBFN here.

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Last updated: 28 January 2020

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