Press "Enter" to skip to content

Dark Matter Search Project – Using a Time Projection Chamber Nearly a Mile Underground – Carefully Ramps Up Science Work

A photomultiplier tube array that is part of the LUX-ZEPLIN experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. The photomultiplier tubes are designed to detect signals produced by dark matter particle interactions. Credit: Matt Kapust/SURF

Sanford Underground Research Facility transitions toward fuller site operations.

Crews working on the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) dark matter search experiment were at the peak of installation activity a mile deep at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota when the COVID-19 outbreak led SURF officials to limit activities to essential operations. Earlier this month the SURF site began a transition back toward increased operations.

On May 6, SURF officials moved to allow day-shift operations for science and surface projects, applying additional safety protocols to protect the health of staff, researchers, and others.

Sanford Underground Research Facility Surface Buildings

Surface buildings at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. Credit: Matthew Kapust/SURF

“We’ve implemented a number of controls on travel, physical distancing, health checks, and protective equipment to facilitate this transition,” said Mike Headley, SURF executive director.

Limited work in surface laboratories at SURF has progressed, and this work must follow strict safety measures. Some limited work has also been allowed to continue at a few of the institutions participating in LZ in the U.S. and Europe.

LUX-ZEPLIN Time Projection Chamber

The LUX-ZEPLIN cryostat, which houses the experiment’s main detector, is pictured here in a surface lab before its delivery underground. Credit: Matthew Kapust/SURF

Back in March, participants in the LZ collaboration placed its systems in a state that allows for remote monitoring, and limited underground access had been available for workers to check on equipment once per week.

Teleconferencing was already the norm in LZ before the appearance of COVID-19, noted Gil Gilchriese, LZ project director and a physicist at Berkeley Lab, and all LZ design and planning work has continued without interruption. Berkeley Lab is the lead laboratory for the LZ project.

LZ Photomultiplier Tube Arrays

Upper (left) and lower photomultiplier tube arrays were prepared for LZ at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. Credit: Matt Kapust/SURF

The pause in installation work at SURF, he said, allowed more members of the LZ collaboration to focus on preparations for the software and computing that will rapidly process data once installation is complete and LZ begins its testing period, called commissioning.

SURF and LZ leadership are now planning to phase in higher levels of project activity at the site while complying with rules designed to ensure personal safety.

Source: SciTechDaily