Over 150 leading international physicists convened in early January at The University of Texas at Arlington to collaborate on the game-changing particle physics experiment known as the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, or DUNE.
The US Department of Energy project focuses on nearly massless subatomic particles and is led by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (a CSA CSM) in Illinois. The project aims to solve the question of how the universe came to consist of matter rather than antimatter—in other words, to explain the origins of the universe and why we exist at all.
“DUNE is the next big thing in particle physics,” said Dr. Jaehoon Yu, UTA physics professor and organizer of the meeting. “UTA’s key role in this billion-dollar, US-led planned project consolidates our international reputation as a power-house in this field.”
Within DUNE, Yu is convening the Exotics Group that will search for Dark Matter, while UTA associate physics professor Dr. Amir Farbin has a leading role in designing the computing systems model for the project.
Both are members of UTA’s High Energy Physics group, a team that played a key role in the search for the Higgs Boson, also known as the “God Particle,” at the Large Hadron Collider ATLAS experiments in Switzerland.
Duane Dimos, UTA vice president for research, noted that DUNE includes almost 800 collaborators from 145 institutions and 26 countries around the world and said the project exemplifies the international effort that characterizes particle physics experiments.
“Yet again, UTA is taking on a high-profile role that strengthens our reputation as a leading research institution, providing opportunities for our faculty and students to work with international experts at the highest level,” Dimos said.
Why is DUNE looking at the Neutrino?
Neutrinos are subatomic particles that may offer an answer to the lingering mystery of the universe’s matter-antimatter imbalance.
Physics tells us that matter is created side by side with antimatter, but if matter and antimatter are produced equally, then all of the matter created in the early universe should have been cancelled out by equal amounts of antimatter, eliminating existence itself instantly. And we wouldn’t be here.
Neutrinos and antimatter antineutrinos oscillate as they move through space, changing “flavor,” form and mass.
Scientists hope that by observing and comparing the oscillations of neutrinos and antineutrinos some difference will become apparent that could explain the matter-antimatter imbalance and hence how our universe came to exist.
The DUNE experiment also could shed light on other physical processes such as Dark Matter that have been largely unexplained up to now.
What does the DUNE experiment involve?
The DUNE experiment involves firing an intense neutrino beam from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago to the DUNE far detector in the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota, a distance of 800 miles.
The DUNE far detector is conceived as four vast liquid argon time projection chambers, each consisting of a total volume of 20,000 tons of liquid argon. These time projection chambers will provide 3D images of the particles produced in neutrino interactions.
The first time projection chambers were developed in 1974 by David Nygren, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Physics in UTA’s College of Science, to enable accurate and complete capture of results when high-energy particles collide. Such collisions can lead to the production of hundreds or even thousands of new particles. Since then, the time projection chamber has been used worldwide for more than three decades in particle detection and discovery, ranging from relativistic heavy ion collisions to the search for Dark Matter and extremely rare nuclear decays.