23 January 2020
Representatives from UK Research and Innovation and the US Department of Energy have signed an agreement that outlines £65 million worth of contributions that UK research institutions and scientists will make to the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) and related projects hosted by DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. DUNE will study the properties of mysterious particles called neutrinos, which could help explain more about how the universe works and why matter exists at all.
UK scientists have held leadership positions in DUNE since the inception of the collaboration in 2015. The agreement gives the green light to build major components in the UK for this megascience project. That includes setting up the required lab space and infrastructure at UK research institutions as well as hiring and training personnel.
The UK investments in these international science projects and participation in the design and construction of cutting-edge scientific equipment for these projects will empower UK scientists and institutions to maintain a world leader position in research for years to come.
“The UK’s continued collaboration with the US on science and innovation reinforces the importance the scientific communities of both countries place on working together to try and answer some of the biggest questions in physics, questions which have the potential to lead to profound changes in our understanding of the universe,” said Professor Mark Thomson, particle physicist and executive chair of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.
“This investment by STFC secures future access for UK scientists to the international DUNE experiment as well as giving UK scientists and engineers the chance to take leading roles in the management and development of the DUNE far detector and also the LBNF neutrino beam and the associated PIP-II accelerator,” Thomson said.
DUNE is the first large-scale US-hosted experiment run as a truly international project, with more than 1,000 scientists and engineers from over 30 countries contributing to the design, construction and operation of the facilities and scientific equipment. The UK research community is a major contributor to the DUNE collaboration, with 14 UK universities and two STFC laboratories providing essential expertise and components to the experiment and facility.
UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore and Chris Fall, Director of the US Department of Energy Office of Science (Credit: STFC/Fermilab).
The agreement was signed by UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore and Chris Fall, Director of the US Department of Energy Office of Science.
“Our collaboration with the UK remains a cornerstone of DOE’s international partnerships in high-energy physics,” said Chris Fall. “Those partnerships are key to building world-class projects like PIP-II and LBNF/DUNE, hosted by Fermilab, and we are pleased to see our long history of scientific kinship with the UK in this field continue.”
The agreement is a new chapter in the long history of UK research collaboration with the United States. UK contributions will include:
DUNE will send neutrinos 1300 kilometres from Fermilab in Illinois to huge particle detectors 1.5 kilometres underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota in order to study neutrino oscillations. Scientists will look for the differences in behaviour between neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos, which could provide clues as to why we live in a matter-dominated universe.
Dune experiment (Credit: Fermilab)
DUNE scientists will also watch for neutrinos stemming from a supernova, or star explosion, which could reveal the formation of neutron stars and black holes. Another goal of DUNE is to look for signals from proton decay. Scientists will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually fall apart, bringing us closer to fully understanding the fundamental forces of nature.
DUNE will help to recruit and train the next generation of particle physicists, giving students at universities around the world the opportunity to publish scientific papers and get hands-on training on one of the world’s most advanced physics projects.
The investment from UK Research and Innovations’ Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is made up of a number of four-year construction grants to a group of UK universities as well as to the technology teams at STFC’s RAL and Daresbury sites.
This investment by the UK is the first stage of two to support the DUNE construction project, which runs until 2026. This includes work to produce over 150 Anode Plane Assembly (APA), the largest component of the DUNE detector.
This investment by STFC on behalf of the UK secures future access for UK scientists to the international DUNE experiment as well as giving UK scientists and engineers the chance to take leading roles in the management and development of the DUNE far detector and also the LBNF neutrino beam and the associated PIP-II accelerator.
The UK universities involved in the project include Birmingham; Bristol; Cambridge; Edinburgh, Imperial College London; Lancaster, Liverpool; Manchester; Oxford; Sheffield; Sussex; UCL and Warwick.
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.”
Last updated: 24 January 2020