Boulby Underground Laboratory
North Yorkshire, UK
The Boulby Underground Laboratory is helping to answer the big questions about what the Universe is made of and if there is life on other planets, what it could be like.
Scientists from our particle physics group work at the Boulby Underground Laboratory. The laboratory lies 1,100m below ground in a working potash mine in Northern England. It provides a low radiation background environment where physicists run high sensitivity detectors aiming to discover dark matter and study the effects of cosmic rays on cloud formation.
Boulby is the second deepest mine in Europe. Students start their journey to the laboratory with a descent of 1,100m as they travel down the mine shaft, followed by a walk along a network of tunnels cut into a salt bed over 200 million years old.
The salty environment in Boulby is similar to the salt on the surface of Mars, or the salty ocean beneath the icy crust of Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. The mine is not only home to the search for dark matter, the salty tunnels are also home to tiny organisms called extremophiles which astrobiologists are studying to see if they can tell us whether life could cope in similar environments elsewhere in the Universe. One day we might find advanced extraterrestrial life but the chances are that any alien species could be more like the simple organisms living in Boulby mine.
Nobel Prize winner visits Boulby during trip to University of Sheffield
Professor Takaaki Kajita, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for research leading to the discovery of atmospheric neutrino oscillations, visited Physics and Astronomy at Sheffield to give a guest lecture. As part of his trip to the UK, he was shown around Boulby Underground Laboratory to learn about our dark matter research.