Remote Monitoring Stations Established at SD Mines in Build Up to DUNE

SD Mines physics graduate students and faculty at the remote monitoring station on campus include (left to right) Bhubnesh Lama, Luke Corwin, Ph.D., David A. Martinez Caicedo, Ph.D., Jairo Rodriguez and Michelle While.

Researchers in the Department of Physics at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are setting up new remote monitoring stations that allow them to take part in the international experiments MicroBooNE and NOvA.  Both world-class experiments are investigating properties of neutrinos, one of nature’s most elusive particles. Both projects are also led by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Neutrinos rarely interact with other particles; they can pass through the entire planet as if it were empty space. In order to study such particles, scientists need to create an intense beam of them and send them continuously through a large detector for long periods of time. Because of the need for intense beams, these experiments are said to take place at the Intensity Frontier of particle physics.

These experiments are on the cutting edge of particle physics research.  They are part of a series of sophisticated neutrino research projects that include the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), hosted by Fermilab, which will see a massive particle detector built a mile below the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. A groundbreaking for this project was held in July 2017.

NOvA includes more than 240 scientists and engineers from 50 institutions in six countries while MicroBooNE is made up of 179 scientists from 31 institutions. Researchers in both projects are studying neutrino properties. Both experiments require precise measurements as neutrinos are emitted from a particle accelerator and again as they are seen in particle detectors. These sensitive experiments require 24-7 monitoring by trained experts.

The new remote monitoring stations, established at SD Mines, allow graduate students, researchers and faculty in Mines’ physics department to play a direct role in running these experiments. Currently, researchers have to travel to Minneapolis or Fermilab to take their required time monitoring these experiments. “The major difference that building this control room makes is that we no longer need to travel to take our shifts,” says Luke Corwin, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics at Mines. “Remotely monitoring the particle detectors is a huge responsibility job,” says David A. Martinez Caicedo, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Physics at Mines.

 Researchers must monitor the health of the experimental equipment while monitoring the neutrino interactions inside the detectors to make sure the whole system is working properly. “When the problems begin to escalate within the detector you will be able to see this take place, notify others, and take necessary actions to remedy the problem,” says Caicedo. Three Mines graduate students in the project include Jairo Rodriguez, Michelle While and Bhubnesh Lama.

Part of this job also includes watching for supernovas. NOvA and MicroBooNE are part of a global supernova monitoring network. If a supernova should become visible on earth while the experiment is running NOvA will be able to see neutrinos emitted from these events. The last supernova was observed on earth in 1987. “It would be a big breakthrough in particle physics and astrophysics,” says Corwin.   Researchers with MicroBooNE are also developing tools that could serve as proof of principle for future supernovae research in bigger detectors as DUNE. 

MicroBooNE and NOvA are part of Fermilab’s extensive neutrino program, which will culminate with the DUNE experiment. Prototypes for that experiment are under construction at CERN, with the first of them recently seeing its first particles. The initial beam for DUNE is planned for 2026. The experience and understanding gained in setting up this remote station at Mines could be also be valuable for setting up remote monitoring of these and future experiments.

Last edited 11/20/2018 5:04:42 PM

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