Lancaster University awarded £1.5M for DUNE global science project

The protoDUNE experimental programme is designed to test and validate the technologies and design that will be applied to the construction of the DUNE Far Detector

Lancaster is part of the UK’s latest multi-million pound investment in the DUNE global science project which could change our understanding of the Universe.

DUNE (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) is a flagship international experiment hosted by the United States Department of Energy’s Fermilab, which will be designed and operated by a collaboration of over 1,000 physicists across 32 countries. It brings together the scientific communities of the UK and 31 countries from Asia, Europe and the Americas to build the world’s most advanced neutrino observatory.

The investment from UK Research and Innovations’ Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is a four-year construction grant to 13 educational institutions and 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 state-of-the-art, 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.

Dr Jaroslaw Nowak, leader of the Lancaster group, said “The DUNE neutrino experiments will give us the next step in the exciting investigation of the matter dominance in the universe. This is one of the fundamental mysteries in physics: we have no idea why our universe consists of matter, while almost no antimatter survived the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang.”

With the awarded funds the Lancaster University will be leading two vital aspects of the project. Dr Jaroslaw Nowak will lead the quality management of the production of scientific equipment worth over £15M, and Dr Andrew Blake is responsible for the development of physics and software tools in the UK institutions. Senior Researcher, Dr Dominic Brailsford will work on preparing analysis tools for the DUNE flagship measurement. 

Dr Nowak described the efforts “Although it is still a few years before DUNE will start taking data, we have already started preparing analysis and computing tools. It is necessary to be able to achieve the precision needed to determine if neutrinos are the source of the matter dominance in the universe.”

The DUNE 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 antimatter has largely disappeared.

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

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