A serious milestone for an underground darkish matter search experiment


IMAGE: This array of photomultiplier tubes is designed to detect alerts occurring inside LZ’s liquid xenon tank.
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Credit score: Matt Kapust/Sanford Lab

Crews engaged on the biggest U.S. experiment designed to instantly detect darkish matter accomplished a significant milestone final month, and are actually turning their sights towards startup after experiencing some delays as a consequence of world pandemic precautions.

U.S. Division of Power officers on Sept. 21 formally signed off on undertaking completion for LUX-ZEPLIN, or LZ: an ultrasensitive experiment that may use 10 metric tons of liquid xenon to hunt for alerts of interactions with theorized darkish matter particles known as WIMPs, or weakly interacting huge particles. DOE’s undertaking completion milestone is known as Vital Determination 4, or CD-4.

Darkish matter makes up an estimated 85 % of all matter within the universe. We all know it is there due to its noticed gravitational results on regular matter, however we do not but know what it’s. LZ is designed to detect the 2 flashes of sunshine that happen if a WIMP interacts with the nucleus of a xenon atom.

“We’re finishing commissioning of the detector – the testing part – and will probably be taking a look at LZ information subsequent 12 months,” stated Simon Fiorucci, LZ operations supervisor and a physicist on the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), which is the lead establishment for the LZ collaboration.

LZ is put in practically a mile beneath floor on the Sanford Underground Analysis Facility (Sanford Lab) in Lead, South Dakota. Its depth offers pure shielding in opposition to the fixed bathe of cosmic rays on the Earth’s floor, that are a supply of background particle “noise” that would drown out the WIMP interplay alerts scientists are trying to find. LZ can be constructed from parts which were individually chosen and examined to be low in naturally occurring radiation that would additionally complicate the search.

Mike Headley, govt director of Sanford Lab, stated, “Your entire Sanford Lab group congratulates the LZ Collaboration in reaching this main milestone. The LZ group has been an exquisite accomplice and we’re proud to host them at Sanford Lab. We’re wanting ahead to LZ information assortment subsequent 12 months.”

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic led Sanford Lab to scale back its operations to solely these deemed important on March 25, and the positioning started a transition again towards elevated operations on Might 6. Berkeley Lab and different establishments within the LZ collaboration had additionally lowered their operations in response to the coronavirus. Sanford Lab, and LZ undertaking staff, have been lucky in with the ability to resume work rapidly, Fiorucci famous.

He famous that xenon-purifying actions at SLAC Nationwide Accelerator Laboratory had been quickly delayed as a consequence of COVID-19-related reductions. Xenon purified at SLAC will probably be shipped to Sanford Lab and transformed to liquid xenon for the LZ experiment.

“We have made respectable progress regardless of all of those problems,” he stated. “We might managed to keep up a workforce at Sanford Lab and at SLAC, and to maintain issues going at the least at 80 % pace. By June we have been again at nominal pace, and have been again in that mode since.”

Even so, COVID-19 dangers persist, and Fiorucci famous that staff proceed to stick to security protocols to scale back these dangers. Throughout this commissioning part, there are about 15-20 LZ staff break up into two shifts at Sanford Lab, Fiorucci stated, and he expects that degree of staffing to carry by means of the tip of this 12 months.

Now that CD-4 has been achieved, Fiorucci stated it is thrilling to have the end line in sight.

“We’re getting loads much less engineering – and much more science – within the combine,” he stated. “It is definitely thrilling and thrilling.” He famous that members of the collaboration have been on this place earlier than: LZ’s predecessor, the LUX experiment, was additionally put in and operated in the identical underground analysis cavern at Sanford Lab.

However this time it is totally different.

“We have definitely completed this earlier than, however by no means at this scale,” he stated. LUX used about one-third of a metric ton of liquid xenon, whereas LZ may have 10 metric tons of liquid xenon and will probably be about 100 occasions extra delicate to darkish matter particle interactions.

“We’re going into the unknown now.”


Based in 1931 on the idea that the largest scientific challenges are finest addressed by groups, Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Laboratory and its scientists have been acknowledged with 14 Nobel Prizes. As we speak, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable power and environmental options, create helpful new supplies, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from world wide depend on the Lab’s amenities for their very own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram nationwide laboratory, managed by the College of California for the U.S. Division of Power’s Workplace of Science.

DOE’s Workplace of Science is the one largest supporter of primary analysis within the bodily sciences in the US, and is working to deal with a few of the most urgent challenges of our time. For extra data, please go to power.gov/science.

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