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2nd October 2017

The UK invests £65 million in particle physics

UK partners with US, committing a big investment for research of neutrinos
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The United Kingdom has committed to a £65 million collaboration with the United States in a landmark partnership.  Last week Science Minister Jo Johnson and US international science secretary Judith G. Garber signed the landmark deal in Washington DC guaranteeing the UK’s commitment to cutting-edge research.

The sum will be invested into the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) and the Deep Underground Neutrino experiment (DUNE). The goal of these projects is to understand the properties of the neutrino, a weakly interacting fundamental particle.

Neutrinos interact so rarely with matter that of the 65 billion neutrinos per second that cross every square centimetre of your body, only one will interact with you in your entire life!

The LBNF will fire the world’s most intense beam of neutrinos 800 km from the Fermilab in Illinois through the earth’s crust targeting a 1.4 km deep mine in South Dakota. This mine will house the gigantic DUNE detector. Roughly six stories tall and as long as six Magic Buses, the giant tank of liquid argon will be the world’s best attempt at a machine to measure these impossible particles.

The University of Manchester continues to play a key role in the construction and future running of the DUNE detector. Our very own Professor Stefan Söldner-Rembold is leading the design and construction effort of the readout systems for the 70,000-ton detector.

Conducting a team of three professors, three research staff, and six students he said: “This is fantastic news and everyone is extremely excited about this announcement. DUNE will be the next big project in Particle Physics after the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. It will answer fundamental questions about the Universe.”

By measuring neutrinos and their counterpart “antineutrinos” — the antimatter version of neutrinos — the DUNE collaboration hopes to understand why there was more matter than antimatter at the beginning of the universe. They also hope to find out whether a proton, a subatomic particle that is one of the building blocks of all the chemicals around you, decays.

Answering these questions will decide whether leading theories that explain the universe are correct.

The partnership will benefit the University of Manchester, and the UK at large, in immeasurable ways; securing our position as a global place of learning and research, as well as providing fascinating research opportunities for our students.

Students active in the precursor experiment to DUNE, proto-DUNE, are excited about the future job prospects and research opportunities that this investment will bring the university.  DUNE is expected to record its first events in 2024.

In the meantime, Professor Söldner-Rembold and his students have an exciting program of research to ensure the successful construction of the projects.


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