University of Sheffield scientists to play key role in £65 million research partnership with US

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Scientists at the University of Sheffield are set to play a leading role in a new £65 million research partnership between the UK and the US, which could change our understanding of the universe.

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), based at the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) in South Dakota in the United States, 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.

The study follows an agreement signed by UK Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson this week (20 September 2017) with the US Energy Department to invest £65 million into DUNE and LBNF. The investment is part of a long history of UK research collaboration with the US and is the first major project of a wider UK-US Science and Technology agreement.

Physicists from the University of Sheffield are set to play a key role in developing the detector that will be critical in the experiment’s study of neutrinos.

Professor Neil Spooner, Head of the University of Sheffield’s Particle Physics Group and leader of the Sheffield DUNE Research Group, said: “This is a huge development for UK science and for the new relationship developing between the UK and US on science cooperation. Neutrinos are the new wild frontier in physics, their properties are not explained by our current understanding of physics. The DUNE project, which will comprise eventually of a huge 40,000 tonne detector of liquid argon a mile underground, is set to tackle this issue head-on but also conduct a new form of astrophysics by detecting neutrinos from exploding supernovae.

“The final detector will need hundreds of specialist readout planes mounted inside the liquid argon at -184 degree Celsius, each built around precision fabricated stainless steel frames of 6.085m x 2.3m. Sheffield has been part-responsible for building the first three test devices using a local expert company, Portobello Ltd.

“The possibility of now proceeding with a huge scale-up for the full detector, right at the centre of this massive experiment, could be a boost to industries in Sheffield as well as the University. Much of the UK’s expertise in the key liquid argon technology was started in Sheffield many years ago, so it is great to know that the UK is involved in such a breathtakingly large experiment using this technology.”