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Research@Mines Archive:
January, 2020

Radio-Pure Nearly a Mile Down: Keeping Dark Matter Detectors Clean and Accurate

Eric Morrison a Ph.D. graduate student at South Dakota Mines in front of the air purifier used with LZ.

If you want to breathe some of the most radioactive free, or “radio-pure,” air on earth, go 4,850 feet underground to the site of the LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF).

A research team at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has built an air purifier that has reduced the radon in the air to about 50 times lower than typical outdoor air. The team is helping to ensure success for one of the world’s most sensitive dark matter experiments — LZ. Dark matter has never been directly observed. But it is believed to make up 85% of all the matter in the universe. The mystery of dark matter is considered to be one of the most pressing questions in particle physics. The LZ experiment is run deep underground where it will be protected from high-energy particles, called cosmic radiation, which can create unwanted background signals. But underground environments pose other challenges. They are often higher in radon, which can also impede sensitive experiments.

“Usually the concentration of radon underground is quite high, but the equipment that has been installed in SURF reduces radon background by a factor of a thousand,” says Richard Schnee, Ph.D., the physics department head at...

Last Edited 1/6/2020 12:11:08 PM [Comments (0)]