Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment Passes Milestone on Path to Black Hills

Inside the first ProtoDUNE detector, before it was filled with liquid argon. Photo: CERN


Officials with CERN and Fermilab announced the first particle tracks recorded by ProtoDUNE, the largest liquid-argon neutrino detector in the world. The ProtoDUNE detector was built at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics.  The first of two ProtoDUNE detectors is the size of a three-story house and the shape of a gigantic cube. This accomplishment opens a new chapter in the story of the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

Researchers in the Department of Physics at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, are playing an integral role in both ProtoDUNE and DUNE.

DUNE is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. The DUNE detector modules are being constructed at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota and they will each be 20 times larger than the prototypes. 

“The world-class DUNE program, with ProtoDUNE at CERN and DUNE at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, will continue to provide excellent research opportunities at Mines for decades to come.  Our faculty and students will lead efforts to answer some of the most fundamental questions about our universe,” says Richard Schnee, Ph.D., and the head of SD Mines Department of Physics.

Juergen Reichenbacher, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physics at Mines is leading an effort to screen materials in ProtoDune and DUNE for radioactivity before installation. An understanding of the background radiation in the detector components is essential to a successful experiment. Undergraduate students Layne Tieszen, Sage Preble and Thomas Hayes worked with Reichenbacher to build several large radioactivity sensors at Mines for screening of ProtoDUNE and DUNE detector components. Reichenbacher and his graduate student Jason Stock developed a full-blown computer simulation of all radioactivity backgrounds in the DUNE detectors. Jason Stock produced these computing intense simulations, using up to 10,000 cores on a computer cluster at Fermilab. These extensive computer simulations have already been applied by many participating university groups around the world to develop DUNE’s detector electronics. Reichenbacher and his other graduate student James Haiston are also planning to deploy a low-level radioactive source into the existing ProtoDUNE detector during a future run of this experiment. This work is key in the effort to calibrate the much larger DUNE detector going into the Sanford Lab. Reichenbacher’s, Stock’s and Haiston’s work will help DUNE’s ability to detect exploding stars.

Luke Corwin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physics at Mines is working on the light detectors that can indicate when various charged particles are emitted during a neutrino interaction with the liquid argon inside the detector. As part of this work, Corwin, graduate student Michelle While, and undergraduate student John Wieland are undertaking environmental survival testing of the ProtoDUNE photodetectors. This will help insure the detectors will not be affected by high heat or humidity during storage or shipping. Corwin has also built a high sensitivity radon monitor and is planning to use it to measure the amount of radon in the liquid argon at ProtoDUNE during an upcoming run of the experiment.

David Martinez Caicedo, Ph.D., a new assistant professor of physics at Mines, will work within the DUNE photon detection consortium. He will study ways to improve the light detector systems in DUNE and examine the performance of a new type of light detectors that are partially employed at ProtoDUNE. Martinez Caicedo is the newest member of the growing physics department at Mines and his research on both ProtoDune and DUNE will likely expand in the future.

Researchers at Mines were on hand at the groundbreaking ceremony for the far DUNE detector at SURF in July of 2017. Mines researchers will continue to play an important role in DUNE for the life of the experiment which could be operational into the 2030’s. SD Mines is the closest engineering and science university to the Sanford Lab and Mines researchers are vital to a wide range of experiments at the facility.


About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,654 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $61,300. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

Contact: Charles Michael Ray, 605-394-6082, Charles.Ray@sdsmt.edu

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