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UK researchers awarded £30m for global science project to better understand matter and antimatter


The University of Cambridge will provide essential contributions to the DUNE experiment, a global science project that brings the scientific community together to work on trying to answer some of the biggest questions in physics.

DUNE (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) is hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab, and will be designed and operated by a collaboration of over 1,000 physicists from 32 countries.

The project aims to advance our understanding of the origin and structure of the universe. It will study the behaviour of particles called neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos. This could provide insight as to why we live in a matter-dominated universe while anti-matter has largely disappeared.

“DUNE has the unique potential to answer fundamental questions that overlap particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology,” said Professor Stefan Söldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester, who leads the international DUNE collaboration as one of its spokespeople.

The investment, from UK Research and Innovation’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), is a four-year construction grant to 13 educational institutions, and to STFC’s Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories. This grant, of £30m, represents the first of two stages to support the DUNE construction project in the UK which will run until 2026 and represent a total investment of £45m.

Various elements of the experiment are under construction across the world, with the UK taking a major role in contributing essential expertise and components to the experiment and facility. UK scientists and engineers will design and produce the principle detector components at the core of the DUNE detector, which will comprise four large tanks each containing 17,000 kg of liquid argon.

The UK groups are also developing a high-speed data acquisition system to record the signals from the detector, together with the sophisticated software needed to interpret the data and provide the answers to the scientific questions.

“DUNE could help to change the way we understand the universe,” said Dr Melissa Uchida, who leads the neutrino group at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. “This announcement has allowed the UK to take a leading role in many aspects of the experiment, making the UK the biggest DUNE contributor outside the USA. Our group will deliver hardware and software, as well as calibration and analysis effort for DUNE and we are ready and excited to meet the challenges ahead.”

DUNE will also watch for supernova neutrinos produced when a star explodes, which will allow the scientists to observe the formation of neutron stars and black holes and will investigate whether protons live forever or eventually decay, bringing us closer to fulfilling Einstein’s dream of a grand unified theory.

The other UK universities involved in the project are Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Sussex, UCL and Warwick.

Cambridge researchers will receive funding as part of a £30m investment in the DUNE experiment, which has the potential to lead to profound changes in our understanding of the universe.

Inside ProtoDUNE at CERN

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