June 25, 2009
Deep labs to probe ‘dark matter’ in South Dakota gold mine
SIOUX FALLS, S.D.
Far below the Black Hills of South Dakota, crews are building the world’s deepest underground science lab at a depth equivalent to more than six Empire State buildings — a place uniquely suited to scientists’ quest for mysterious particles known as dark matter.
Workers have begun construction in an old gold mine that was once the site of Nobel Prize-winning physics research.
The site is ideal for experiments because its location is largely shielded from cosmic rays that could interfere with efforts to prove the existence of dark matter, which is thought to make up nearly a quarter of the mass of the universe.
The deepest reaches of the mine plunge to 8,000 feet below the surface. Some early geology and hydrology experiments are already under way at 4,850 feet. Researchers also hope to build two deeper labs that are still awaiting funding from Congress.
“The fact that we’re going to be in the Davis Cavern just tickles us pink,” said Tom Shutt of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, referring to a portion of the mine named after scientist Ray Davis Jr., who used it in the 1960s to demonstrate the existence of particles called solar neutrinos.
Davis and a colleague named John Bahcall won a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize for physics for their work.
The old Homestake Gold Mine in a community called Lead (pronounced LEED) was shut down in 2001 after 125 years.
Pumps that kept the mine dry were turned off years ago, so workers have been drying it out to prepare for the new research.
Before the labs are built, crews must also stabilize the tunnels and install new infrastructure. The lab at 4,850 feet is not much to look at yet. A rusty orange film covers the walls, floors, ceilings and debris left behind by miners.
The first dark matter experiment will be the Large Underground Xenon detector experiment — or LUX — a project to detect weakly interacting particles that could give scientists greater insight into the Big Bang explosion believed to have formed the universe.
Shutt, along with Brown University’s Rick Gaitskell and nearly a dozen collaborators will work at the site to search for dark matter, which does not emit detectable light or radiation. But scientists say its presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter.
Scientists believe most of the dark matter in the universe contains no atoms and does not interact with ordinary matter through electromagnetic forces.
They are trying to discover exactly what it is, how much exists and what effect it may have on the future of the universe.
Physicists have said that without dark matter, galaxies might never have formed. By learning more about dark matter, they hope to understand better whether the universe is expanding or contracting.
The research team will try to catch the ghostly particles in a 300-kilogram tank of liquid xenon, a cold substance that is three times heavier than water.
If they tried to detect dark matter above ground, the highly sensitive detector would be bombarded by cosmic radiation.
Scientists hope to start construction on the two deepest labs by 2012 and open them by 2016. The projects are expected to cost US$550 million.
|MOST POPULAR STORIES|
- Durham continues critical expansion of Bayly Street
- U.S. Carpenters’ centre hosts first-ever scaffolding conference
- Carpenters’ training centre continues its expansion
- Major projects and retirees to impact Ontario labour
- New OSWCA exec Cautillo focused on partnerships and planning
- 20 Most Popular Stories
|TODAY’S TOP CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS|
These projects have been selected from 460 projects with a total value of $2,479,930,740 that Reed Construction Data Building Reports reported on Wednesday.
$145,000,000 Toronto ON Prebid
$110,000,000 Toronto ON Tenders
$70,000,000 Ottawa ON Prebid
- VIDEO: LiUNA Local 183 Training Centre introduces new programs
- VIDEO: RCCAO Pre-Budget Roundtable on infrastructure
- Storied Burka Architects downsizes and transitions
- Learning Centre Construction
- Collaboration with industry important to workplace safety improvement: Witmer
- Robot-powered construction revolution
- Engineers design permanent flood protection for Calgary
- Inquest called into fatal Vecchio incident
- Infrastructure Ontario issues RFQ for Ontario Place construction
- Cisco picks Toronto for location of new innovation hub
- Concerns raised about P3 approach for Saskatchewan schools
- Journal of Commerce Preview for the week of March 10th, 2014
- PHOTO GALLERY: 2014 Wood Design Awards
- Wastewater treatment plant tops priority list
- Lone bidder prepares P3 proposal for Alberta schools
- Industry reacts as details emerge about job grant agreement
- Demand rising for Kitimat camps
- Open textbooks are key to skills training
- InPower BC awarded John Hart project contract
- Skills training investment in Manitoba
- Premier claims pact justifies need for $10 billion dam