Two Construction Projects Reach Major Milestones at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

July 22 marked a historic moment for two projects carrying science at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) [CSA CSM] into the future. The US Department of Energy’s Under secretary for science joined Fermilab leadership and partners for the pair of milestones: the site dedication of the laboratory’s Integrated Engineering Research Center and the groundbreaking for its PIP-II cryoplant building. The two projects help usher in a new era of science and support cutting-edge research, including the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) hosted by Fermilab. This flagship experiment, powered by the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF), seeks answers to some of the biggest puzzles in physics through the study of minuscule particles called neutrinos.

“The two milestones today reflect the global interest and investment in neutrino research and advancing technology in service of science,” said Fermilab director Nigel Lockyer. “We’re excited to push forward on these efforts and to see how we can unlock some of the secrets of our universe.”

Attendees broke ground on a crucial piece of infrastructure for the lab’s future research program: the PIP-II cryoplant building. The structure will house the cryogenic plant equipment, which includes a cold box, warm compressors and infrastructure for the utilities to support the cryoplant operation. Together, they will keep PIP-II, the new linear particle accelerator, cooled to roughly the temperature of outer space.

PIP-II is the first US accelerator project built with major international contributions; the cryoplant receives support from institutions in India, just one example of the internationality of the broader PIP-II program. Partners in France, India, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States are contributing to the centerpiece of PIP-II, a new superconducting radio frequency linear accelerator. The PIP-II project also includes upgrades that will enable Fermilab’s accelerator complex to generate particle beams at higher powers than previously available. Once complete, the complex will deliver a one-megawatt-plus proton beam that will be used to make the world’s highest-intensity neutrino beam for DUNE and enable Fermilab’s science program for many decades to come.

“We are building a state-of-the-art particle accelerator and have been fortunate to have such dedicated collaborators around the world who are making this effort possible,” said PIP-II project director Lia Merminga. “PIP-II pushes the limits of technology, and that requires bringing together the world’s best minds to make it happen.”

Just a stone’s throw beyond the PIP-II groundbreaking, the Integrated Engineering Research Center (IERC) will bring together engineers, technicians and scientists to tackle the technical challenges of particle physics. Nestled next to Fermilab’s iconic Wilson Hall, the building will centralize engineering expertise near the core of Fermilab’s campus. The new space will provide room for collaboration, research, design, construction and tests of technologies related to neutrino research (including LBNF and DUNE), detectors (such as upgrade projects for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN), quantum science programs, electronics and ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) development and more.

“It’s critical that we have a dedicated space to bring together experts from all sorts of disciplines to tackle tough challenges and make breakthroughs,” said IERC project director Randy Ortgiesen. “With reconfigurable spaces within the building, the structure can evolve and support the different needs of the lab as new projects arise.”

These construction milestones are the latest in a series of steps to enhance Fermilab’s broad range of particle physics experiments and prepare for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. DUNE has more than 1,000 collaborators from more than 180 institutions in over 30 countries. The experiment will send neutrinos from Fermilab through 800 miles (1,300 km) of earth, no tunnel required, to enormous detectors one mile (1.5 km) below the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead SD. Just last month, construction crews set off the first blasts underground, part of the process to remove more than 800,000 tons of rock and create space for the liquid-argon detectors. Near-site construction on LBNF began at Fermilab in November 2019.

“These world-class facilities at Fermilab are going to drive discovery and a leading research program,” said DOE undersecretary for science Paul Dabbar. “It’s an exciting moment in our national labs’ history—and a moment flush with potential for the future.”