From Sanford Underground Research Facility: “DOE, NSF to fund LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment at Sanford Lab”
Sanford Underground Research facility
August 4, 2014
LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), a second generation dark matter experiment, got a big boost when the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation selected it as one of three experiments that will be funded in the next-generation dark matter search. LZ will build on the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, which has been operating at the 4850 Level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility since 2012, and on the ZEPLIN dark matter program in the United Kingdom, which pioneered the use of these types of detectors underground.
“We emerged from a very intense competition,” said Daniel McKinsey, professor of physics at Yale and a spokesperson for LUX. “We have the most sensitive detector in the world, with LUX. LZ will be hundreds of times more sensitive. It’s gratifying to see that our approach is being validated.”
Construction on the supersized detector is scheduled to begin in 2016, with a commissioning date of 2018. Plans for LZ have been in the works for several years.
“This is great news for the future of Dark Matter exploration and the Sanford Lab,” said Mike Headley, Executive Director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. “The LZ experiment will play a key role in the future of the lab and we’re pleased that the DOE selected the experiment. It certainly will extend the state’s investment in this world-class facility.”
Rick Gaitskell, Hazard Professor of Physics at Brown, is a founding member of LZ and also co-spokesperson for the LUX experiment.
“The go-ahead from DOE and NSF is a major event,” Gaitskell said. “The LZ experiment will continue the liquid xenon direct dark matter search program at Sanford Lab, which we started with the operation of LUX in 2013. LUX will run until 2016 when we will replace it with LZ, which can provide a further improvement in sensitivity of two orders of magnitude due to its significant increase in size.”
Even if LUX makes a dark matter detection before LZ is up and running, LZ will still be necessary to confirm the detection and fully characterize the nature of WIMPS, Gaitskell said.
“This green light is a clear indication of the value the agencies see, not only in all the preparatory work that has gone into LZ, but also in the existing accomplishment of LUX and Sanford Lab these past few years,” said Simon Fiorucci, a research scientist at Brown who is the science coordinator for LUX and simulations coordinator for LZ. “LZ will be timed so that it is ready to start operations when LUX delivers its final results and reaches the limits of its technology. It will be a very natural transition.”
Harry Nelson, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and spokesperson for the LZ Collaboration, said, “We still have a lot of work to do. Basically, we got the green light to go the next green light, then the next green light.” Still, he continued, “Everyone is excited.”
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The Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, advances our understanding of the universe by providing laboratory space deep underground, where sensitive physics experiments can be shielded from cosmic radiation. Researchers at the Sanford Lab explore some of the most challenging questions facing 21st century physics, such as the origin of matter, the nature of dark matter and the properties of neutrinos. The facility also hosts experiments in other disciplines—including geology, biology and engineering.
The Sanford Lab is located at the former Homestake gold mine, which was a physics landmark long before being converted into a dedicated science facility. Nuclear chemist Ray Davis earned a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for a solar neutrino experiment he installed 4,850 feet underground in the mine.
Homestake closed in 2003, but the company donated the property to South Dakota in 2006 for use as an underground laboratory. That same year, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to the project. The South Dakota Legislature also created the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to operate the lab. The state Legislature has committed more than $40 million in state funds to the project, and South Dakota also obtained a $10 million Community Development Block Grant to help rehabilitate the facility.
In 2007, after the National Science Foundation named Homestake as the preferred site for a proposed national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) began reopening the former gold mine.
In December 2010, the National Science Board decided not to fund further design of DUSEL. However, in 2011 the Department of Energy, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agreed to support ongoing science operations at Sanford Lab, while investigating how to use the underground research facility for other longer-term experiments. The SDSTA, which owns Sanford Lab, continues to operate the facility under that agreement with Berkeley Lab.
The first two major physics experiments at the Sanford Lab are 4,850 feet underground in an area called the Davis Campus, named for the late Ray Davis. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is housed in the same cavern excavated for Ray Davis’s experiment in the 1960s. In October 2013, after an initial run of 80 days, LUX was determined to be the most sensitive detector yet to search for dark matter—a mysterious, yet-to-be-detected substance thought to be the most prevalent matter in the universe. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment, also on the 4850 Level, is searching for a rare phenomenon called “neutrinoless double-beta decay” that could reveal whether subatomic particles called neutrinos can be their own antiparticle. Detection of neutrinoless double-beta decay could help determine why matter prevailed over antimatter. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment is adjacent to the original Davis cavern.
Another major experiment, the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE)—a collaboration with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Sanford Lab, is in the preliminary design stages. The project got a major boost last year when Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that will fund LBNE operations through FY 2014. Called the “next frontier of particle physics,” LBNE will follow neutrinos as they travel 800 miles through the earth, from FermiLab in Batavia, Ill., to Sanford Lab.
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