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Sussex awarded £1m for contributions to global science project aiming to improve our understanding of the universe

The ProtoDune detector which searches for neutrinos and will be filled with liquid argon at -184 degrees

DUNE graphic © Fermilab (via Flickr)

The University of Sussex is to receive £1m in funding to provide essential contributions to DUNE, which aims to provide insight into the origin of matter in the universe.

The funding is part of the latest multi-million pound UK investment in the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE); a global science project that brings together the scientific communities of the UK with 31 countries from Asia, Europe and the Americas to build the world’s most advanced neutrino observatory.

Professor Stefan Söldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester, who leads the international DUNE collaboration as one of its spokespersons, commented: “DUNE has the unique potential to answer fundamental questions that overlap particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.”

DUNE is a flagship international experiment which could lead to profound changes in our understanding of the universe. Hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab, it will be designed and operated by a collaboration of over 1,000 physicists across 32 countries.

The project aims to advance our understanding of the origin and structure of the universe by studying the behaviour of particles called neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos. This could provide insight as to why we live in a matter-dominated universe while anti-matter has largely disappeared.

DUNE will also watch for supernova neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which will allow the scientists to observe the formation of neutron stars and black holes, and will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay, bringing us closer to fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.

At the University of Sussex, Head of Experimental Particle Physics Professor Simon Peeters, Professor of Physics Jeff Hartnell and Lecturer in Physics Dr Clark Griffith will all be involved in the project.

Professor Simon Peeters, UK DUNE DAQ Project Manager said: “One of the major challenges of the DUNE experiment is the vast amount of data it will produce. At Sussex, we are proud to lead the UK effort on providing the hardware and software needed to collect this data efficiently, thus ensuring that we get the best of physics results from this exciting and important experiment.”

The investment from UK Research and Innovations’ Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is a four-year construction grant to 13 educational institutions and to STFC’s Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories.  This grant, of £30M, represents the first of two stages to support the DUNE construction project in the UK, which will run until 2026 and represent a total investment of £45M.

Various elements of the experiment are under construction across the world, with the UK taking a major role in contributing essential expertise and components to the experiment and facility. UK scientists and engineers will design and produce the principle detector components which collect signals at the core of the DUNE detector. These comprise of four large tanks each containing 17,000 kg of liquid argon.

The UK groups are also developing a state-of-the art, high-speed data acquisition system to record the signals from the detector, together with the sophisticated software needed to interpret the data and provide the answers to the scientific questions.

Professor Alfons Weber from the University of Oxford, who is leading the project in the UK, said: “DUNE will be an exciting experiment and it is fantastic to see how the UK is supporting fundamental science. This announcement has allowed us to take a lead in many aspects of the experiment as the biggest contributor outside the USA. We have a significant task ahead of us in the coming years and we are looking forward to delivering our contributions.”

The other UK universities involved in the project include Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, UCL and Warwick.

By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Thursday, 21 November 2019

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