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DUNE Experiment Marks a New Era in International Particle Physics Research

On July 21st, 2017, the groundbreaking held in South Dakota marked the beginning of excavation for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, which is considered to the future home to the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

The DUNE neutrino beam will travel 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) through Earth from Fermilab in Illinois to Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. Illustration: Sandbox Studio/Fermilab

A new era in international particle physics research officially started with the turning of a shovelful of earth a mile underground.

In an exclusive groundbreaking ceremony organized in the afternoon at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, a team of Engineers, Scientists and Dignitaries from all over the world marked the commencement of a huge international experiment that could bring about a change in the present understanding of the universe. The international DUNE will be housed by the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF). The DUNE will be constructed and operated by a team of nearly 1,000 Engineers and Scientists from 30 countries.

After completion, the LBNF/DUNE will be regarded as the largest experiment ever built in the United States in order to study the properties of mysterious particles known as neutrinos. Exploring the mysteries of these particles could explain a lot about how the universe functions and why matter exists at all.

The construction of LBNF is likely to develop almost 2,000 jobs throughout South Dakota and a related number of jobs in Illinois at its peak. Institutions in several countries will contribute to the development of DUNE components. The DUNE experiment is expected to draw the attention of young Scientists and Students from all over the world, helping to foster the upcoming generation of leaders in the field and also the maintain the greatly skilled scientific workforce in the United States and throughout the entire world.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, based outside Chicago, will produce a beam of neutrinos and then send them 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) via Earth to Sanford Lab, where a four-story-high, 70,000-ton detector will be constructed under the surface in order to catch those neutrinos.

The interactions of neutrinos in the detector will be studied by Scientists in order to improve the understanding of changes these particles go through as they pass across the country in less than the blink of an eye. Neutrinos have proved to be one of the most surprising subatomic particles ever since they were discovered 61 years ago. One of their biggest surprises refers to the fact that they oscillate between three varied states. That discovery started with a solar neutrino experiment headed by Physicist Ray Davis in the 1960s, performed in the same underground mine that will now house LBNF/DUNE. In 2002, Davis shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for his experiment.

DUNE Scientists will also focus on looking out for variations in behavior between neutrinos and antineutrinos, their antimatter counterparts, which could provide clues as to why matter dominates the visible universe. DUNE will also watch for neutrinos generated when a star explodes, which could indeed disclose the formation of black holes and neutron stars, and will further examine whether protons eventually decay or live forever, thus proceeding closer in accomplishing Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.

However, the facility must first be built and that will take place over the next 10 years. Since the first shovel of earth has now been removed, crews will start to excavate over 870,000 tons of rock in order to develop the large underground caverns for the DUNE detector. Large DUNE prototype detectors are being built at the European research center CERN, a key partner in the project, and the technology enhanced for those smaller versions will be tested and then scaled up when the huge DUNE detectors are constructed.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science funded the research in conjunction with CERN and international partners from 30 countries. DUNE Collaborators are from institutions in Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States.


Energy Secretary Rick Perry

“The start of construction on this world-leading science experiment is cause for celebration, not just because of its positive impacts on the economy and on America’s strong relationships with our international partners, but also because of the fantastic discoveries that await us beyond the next horizon. I’m proud to support the efforts by Fermilab, Sanford Underground Research Facility and CERN, and we’re pleased to see it moving forward.”

Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, Office of Science and Technology Policy

“Today’s groundbreaking for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility marks a historic moment for American leadership in science and technology. It also serves as a model for what the future of mega-science research looks like: an intensely collaborative effort between state, local and federal governments, international partners, and enterprising corporate and philanthropic pioneers whose combined efforts will significantly increase our understanding of the universe. The White House celebrates today with everyone who is bringing this once-in-a-generation endeavor to life, including the men and women providing the logistical organization and financial capital to set the project on the right foot, the physical labor to construct these incredible facilities, and the scientific vision to discover new truths through their work here.”

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard

“This project will be one of the world’s most significant physics experiments conducted over the next several decades, and today’s groundbreaking is another milestone in the development of the Sanford Underground Research Facility.”

U.S. Senator John Thune, South Dakota

“The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility continues Lead, South Dakota’s, tradition of cutting-edge neutrino research, dating back to physics experiments at the former Homestake Mine in the 1960s. When completed, LBNF and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment will attract some of the world’s brightest scientists to South Dakota and push the boundaries of basic research, not to mention support good-paying jobs in the historic mining region of the Black Hills. I look forward to seeing the facility’s completion and the groundbreaking experiments that will be done in the years to come.”

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, South Dakota

“Today’s groundbreaking marks another significant step toward gaining a deeper understanding of the makeup of our universe. It is pretty remarkable that such world-class research continues to develop right here in Lead, South Dakota. When we began the process of securing an underground laboratory at South Dakota’s Homestake gold mine more than a decade ago, we were hopeful that it would lead to major advancements in particle physics and neutrino research. Today, those hopes are turning into reality as the Sanford Underground Research Facility, Fermilab and CERN join together to break ground on the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, which will house the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Today is a truly special day, and I thank everyone involved in this collaboration for the years of hard work they’ve put into this project.”

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem, South Dakota

“In breaking ground today, we move closer to uncovering a new understanding of how the natural world works. That new knowledge could have a profound impact, potentially leading to faster global communications, better nuclear weapons detection technologies and a whole new field of research. The future of science is happening right here in South Dakota.”

U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren, Illinois

“The LBNF/DUNE groundbreaking once again puts the United States in a leadership position on the world stage, attracting scientists from around the globe to the only place they can do their work. Fermilab attracts top talent, employing nearly 2,000 in Illinois and providing a strong economic engine to our state. I commend the work done by the Department of Energy, Fermilab and Sanford Lab to bring together a strong coalition to serve the research needs of the international community. With great anticipation I look forward to the new and breathtaking discoveries made at this facility. What we all can learn together will be awe-inspiring and uncover the new questions that will drive future generations of scientists in their quest for greater understanding.”

Director Nigel Lockyer, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

“Fermilab is proud to host the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which bring together scientists from 30 countries in a quest to understand the neutrino. This is a true landmark day and the start of a new era in global neutrino physics.”

Executive Director Mike Headley, Sanford Underground Research Facility

“The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority is proud to be hosting LBNF at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. This milestone represents the start of construction of the largest mega-science project in the United States. We’re excited to be working with the project and the international DUNE collaboration and expanding our knowledge of the role neutrinos play in the makeup of the universe.”

Director-General Fabiola Gianotti, CERN

“Some of the open questions in fundamental physics today are related to extremely fascinating and elusive particles called neutrinos. The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility in the United States, whose start of construction is officially inaugurated with today’s groundbreaking ceremony, brings together the international particle physics community to explore some of the most interesting properties of neutrinos.”

Executive Director of Programmes Grahame Blair, Science and Technology Facilities Council, United Kingdom

“The groundbreaking ceremony today is a significant milestone in what is an extremely exciting prospect for the UK research community. The DUNE project will delve deeper into solving the unanswered questions of our universe, opening the doors to a whole new set of tools to probe its constituents at a very fundamental level and, indeed, even addressing how it came to be. International partnerships are key to building these leading-edge experiments, which explore the origins of the universe, and I am very happy to be a representative of the international community here today.”

President Fernando Ferroni, National Institute for Nuclear Physics, Italy

“We are very proud of this great endeavor of Fermilab as its technology has roots in the work undertaken by Carlo Rubbia at the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy.”

Professor Ed Blucher, University of Chicago and co-spokesperson, DUNE collaboration

“Today is extremely exciting for all of us in the DUNE collaboration. It marks the start of an incredibly challenging and ambitious experiment, which could have a profound impact on our understanding of the universe.”

Professor Mark Thomson, University of Cambridge and co-spokesperson, DUNE collaboration

“The international DUNE collaboration came together to realize a dream of a game-changing program of neutrino science; today represents a major milestone in turning this dream into reality.”

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