A massive particle detector a mile underground is the key to unlocking the secrets of a beam of neutrinos that will be shot beneath the Earth from Chicago to South Dakota.

Reporter Lance Murray with Dallas Innovates reported on the research of biochemistry professors Thomas E. Coan in the SMU Department of Physics.

Coan is one of about 1,000 scientists around the world collaborating on DUNE — a massive particle detector being built a mile underground in South Dakota to unlock the mysteries of neutrino particles.

The research is funded by the by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in conjunction with CERN and international partners from 30 countries.

SMU is one of more than 100 institutions from around the world building hardware for the massive international experiment that may change our understanding of the universe. Construction will take years and scientists expect to begin taking data in the middle of the next decade, said Coan.

The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) will house the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. When complete, LBNF/DUNE will be the largest experiment ever built in the United States to study the properties of the mysterious particles called neutrinos.

The Dallas Innovates article, “SMU, UTA Scientists To Help Unlock Mystery of Neutrinos,” published July 28, 2017.

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By Lance Murray
Dallas Innovates

Construction of a huge particle detector in South Dakota could lead to a change in how we understand the universe, and scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington and Southern Methodist University in Dallas will play roles in helping to unlock the mystery of neutrinos.

Ground was broken a mile underground recently at the Sanford Underground Research Facility at the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) that will house the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

SMU physicist Thomas E. Coan, and UTA Physics professors Jonathan Asaadi and Jaehoon Yu will be among scientists from more than 100 institutions around the world who will be involved in the experiment.

DUNE will be constructed and operated at the mine site by a group of about 1,000 scientists and engineers from 30 nations.

The Homestake Mine was the location where neutrinos were discovered by Raymond Davis Jr. in 1962. It was the the largest and deepest gold mine in North America until its closure in 2002.

LBNF/DUNE will be the biggest experiment ever built in the U.S. to study the properties of neutrinos, one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe.

“DUNE is designed to investigate a broad swath of the properties of neutrinos, one of the universe’s most abundant but still mysterious electrically neutral particles,” Coan said in the release.

These puzzling particles are similar to electrons, but they have one huge difference — they don’t carry an electrical charge. Neutrinos come in three types: the electron neutrino, the muon, and the tau.

What is the experiment’s goal? Coan said it seeks to understand strange phenomena such as neutrinos changing identities in mid-flight — known as “oscillation” — as well as the behavioral differences between a neutrino and its anti-neutrino sibling.

“A crisp understanding of neutrinos holds promise for understanding why any matter survived annihilation with antimatter from the Big Bang to form the people, planets, and stars we see today,” Coan said in the release. “DUNE is also able to probe whether or not the humble proton, found in all atoms of the universe, is actually unstable and ultimately destined to eventually decay away. It even has sensitivity to understanding how stars explode into supernovae by studying the neutrinos that stream out from them during the explosion.”

Coan also is involved in another massive particle detector in northern Minnesota knows as NOvA, where he is a principal investigator.

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