University of Sheffield researchers part of global science project awarded £30m investment

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment is bringing together scientists and engineers from the UK and 31 countries from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Man stood inside the dector the Deep Underground Neutrino experiment

The University of Sheffield has received funding to provide essential contributions to the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which could lead to profound changes in our understanding of the universe.

DUNE is a global science project that brings together the scientific communities of the UK and 31 countries from Asia, Europe and the Americas to build the world’s most advanced neutrino observatory.

Nurturing these technical skills is vital to maintaining our international profile required for participation in big science projects at a global level

Professor Neil Spooner

Department of Physics and Astronomy

The DUNE project aims to advance our understanding of the origin and structure of the universe. It will study 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 scientists to observe the formation of neutron stars and black holes, and investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay, bringing us closer to fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.

It is part of the latest UK multi-million pound investment in the DUNE science project, which will be designed and operated by a collaboration of over 1,000 physicists and hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab.

Professor Neil Spooner, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “This is great news for the University of Sheffield and our Particle Physics and Particle Astrophysics group. DUNE is a fantastically ambitious international project that will probe some of the deepest mysteries in science and of the universe.

“The University of Sheffield will play a key role in the UK’s effort to build the main liquid argon detector for DUNE, following the group’s success in developing the engineering structures for the ProtoDune detector at CERN in Geneva.

“The opportunity this new project provides to developing further high level engineering skills in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is of great importance to us. Nurturing these technical skills is vital to maintaining our international profile required for participation in big science projects at a global level.”

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 Laboratories (RAL). This grant of £30m, represents the first of two stages to support the DUNE construction project in the UK which will run until 2026.

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 at the core of the DUNE detector and a high speed data acquisition system to record the signals from the detector, together with the sophisticated software needed to interpret the data.

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.

The announcement has allowed us to take a lead in many aspects of the experiment as the biggest contributor outside of the USA. We have a significant task ahead of us in the coming years and we are looking forward to delivering our contributions.”

The UK universities involved in the project are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex, University College London and Warwick.

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