Researchers from Edinburgh are taking part in a flagship international experiment to study the properties of fundamental sub-atomic particles, called neutrinos, which could help explain more about how the universe works and why matter exists at all.
The UK Government is investing £65million in the partnership project, based in the United States. It will create the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) in the US. The LBNF will fire neutrinos a distance of 1300 km from the Fermilab facility in Illinois towards the DUNE detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota.
Scientists will detect neutrino behaviour to study differences in behaviour between neutrino particles and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos. If this effect, known as CP violation, were observed in neutrino oscillations, this could explain why we live in a universe dominated by physical matter.
Once constructed, the LBNF and DUNE facility will operate for at least 15 years, undertaking a broad programme of scientific research.
Scientists will also use DUNE to study the neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which could give insights into the formation of neutron stars and black holes.
Researchers will investigate whether protons - positively charged subatomic particles - exist forever or eventually decay. This result would bring scientists a step closer to fulfilling Albert Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.
Physicists from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Edinburgh will take part in the collaboration alongside the Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex, Warwick and UCL.
Edinburgh’s scientists will contribute to creating electronic read out systems for the detector and will participate in creating computer networks to process the vast amounts of data from the experiment.
Professor Franz Muheim reported: “This is fantastic news. We are very excited to be part of the UK consortium on this flagship experiment. This brings together expertise and cutting edge technology to address one of the most fundamental problems in science.”
UK Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson signed the agreement with the US Energy Department in Washington, DC.
UK Science Minister, Jo Johnson said: “Our continued collaboration with the US on science and innovation is beneficial to both of our nations and through this agreement we are sharing expertise to enhance our understanding of many important topics that have the potential to be world changing.”
The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will manage the UK’s investment in the international facility.