UK to play key role in creation of world’s most powerful neutrino beams

The UK is to help build one of the most powerful linear accelerators, which will facilitate the world’s most powerful high-energy neutrino beams.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has come to an agreement with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the US, defining how the two organisations will co-operate to construct one of the world’s most powerful linear accelerators.

Based at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermilab, the Proton Improvement Plan II (PIP-II) accelerator which is currently under construction is a vital upgrade to the accelerator complex and once it is complete, it will facilitate the world’s most powerful high-energy neutrino beams.

This progress will allow scientists to examine the elusive neutrino particle, known for having very little mass, travelling close to the speed of light and potentially holding answers to the greatest unknowns in physics.

The agreement today sets out how the UK will support the project, which will deliver the engine for Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), hosted by Fermilab. DUNE is an international flagship science experiment devised to study neutrinos. The findings from these studies looking at the neutrino particle could completely transform our understanding of the Universe.

In the UK, STFC will design and develop essential elements of the 215-metre-long particle accelerator, which will accelerate the proton beam to its highest energy.

A powerful proton beam reaching a target is crucial for the study of neutrinos as they do not interact very often with other particles, making them difficult to spot, so researchers need to generate a large quantity of neutrinos to detect even one in the massive detectors.

The PIP-II accelerator will also power a range of other experiments at Fermilab and its high-power beams can be supplied to multiple experiments at once.

The contract was signed by Professor Mark Thomson, STFC’s Executive Chair, and Dr Nigel Lockyer, the Director of Fermilab.

Thomson commented: “Today’s agreement further strengthens the UK’s collaboration with our US partners in this crucial project, which sits at the heart of a new globally significant facility at Fermilab.

“STFC’s continued commitment to the Fermilab neutrino programme will pave the way for fundamental discoveries into the nature of these most elusive particles, and will provide key insights into the origins and evolution of the Universe.”

The UK’s collaboration in the upgrade has been facilitated by the UK government investing £79m in the DUNE experiment, Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF), and the new PIP-II accelerator.

Along with the US and the UK, France, Italy, Poland, and India are also collaborating on the project.

“We are grateful for the world-class expertise and contributions of our international collaborators in building a state-of-the-art particle accelerator powering the world’s most intense neutrino beam. This upgraded technology will drive the next 50 years of global neutrino research in particle physics and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s contributions will help make this possible,” added Nigel Lockyer, Fermilab director.

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