New shield design improves CUBED detector

Sensitive physics experiments like the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) and Majorana Demonstrator (MJD) experiments seek significant events that help them better understand the universe. Deep underground they escape most of the cosmic rays that bombard Earth’s surface. But radiation exists everywhere: in the materials used, in the rocks, and in the air. That’s where low background detectors come in. 

The Center for Ultra-Low...

The opportunity of a lifetime

This summer Dana Byram got the opportunity of a lifetime when he was offered a spot in Gran Sasso National Laboratory’s (LNGS) Summer Institute. Located in Italy, LNGS hosts major experiments in astroparticle physics in the world’s largest underground lab. 

“This was a great opportunity for me,” the Experiment Support Scientist said. “I’ve been wanting to visit other underground facilities because of my position at Sanford Lab and with the Majorana Demonstrator project (MJD). This was a great way to do that...

Sanford Lab gets a facelift

As you walk around the Sanford Lab site, you may notice things look a little different. Crosswalks were painted this summer in key areas. New signs bearing the Sanford Logo identify locations around the property. Banners depict each head frame, the two major experiments and the construction of the Davis Campus. 

In the Ross and Yates yards, work planning has begun with Pacific Steel to clean up scrap iron and crews installed large shipping containers for materials and storage equipment. “It’s all part of an...

‘Amazing work accomplishments’

Progress at Sanford Lab was the focus of an all-hands meeting last Friday. Progress with current and future experiments, progress in shaft rehabilitation and maintenance, progress in safety policies, and progress in underground construction and at the new Visitor Center. 

“I am thrilled with the team’s amazing work accomplishments and with the improvement in safety performance,” said Executive Director Mike Headley.

Here are some highlights of the many accomplishments at Sanford Lab. 


Keeping the creek healthy and happy

Don Conklin and two team members from GEI Consultants, walk slowly through a 330-foot section of Whitewood Creek. Two of them, including Conklin, carry electrofishing units on their backs. Low-voltage wands placed in the water temporarily stun the fish, which are put in a bucket then into a “holding net.” After a third sweep, the fish are counted, measured and weighed then released into the stream.  

“We try to catch every fish in each section,” Conklin said. “It gives us a population estimate, which we...

DOE, NSF to fund LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment at Sanford Lab

August 1, 2014
This computer generated image show a side-by-side comparison to the current LUX dark matter detector to the larger LZ detector.

LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), a second generation dark matter experiment, got a big boost when the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation selected it as one of three experiments that will be funded in the next-generation dark matter search. LZ will build on the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, which has been operating at the 4850 Level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility since 2012, and on the ZEPLIN dark matter program in the United Kingdom, which pioneered the use of these types of detectors underground.

“We emerged from a very intense competition,” said Daniel McKinsey, professor of physics at Yale and a spokesperson for LUX. “We have the most sensitive detector in the world, with LUX. LZ will be hundreds of times more sensitive. It’s gratifying to see that our approach is being validated.”

Construction on the supersized detector is scheduled to begin in 2016, with a commissioning date of 2018. Plans for LZ have been in the works for several years.

“This is great news for the future of Dark Matter exploration and the Sanford Lab,” said Mike Headley, Executive Director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. “The LZ experiment will play a key role in the future of the lab and we’re pleased that the DOE selected the experiment. It certainly will extend the state’s investment in this world-class facility.”

Rick Gaitskell, Hazard Professor of Physics at Brown, is a founding member of LZ and also co-spokesperson for the LUX experiment.

“The go-ahead from DOE and NSF is a major event,” Gaitskell said. “The LZ experiment will continue the liquid xenon direct dark matter search program at Sanford Lab, which we started with the operation of LUX in 2013. LUX will run until 2016 when we will replace it with LZ, which can provide a further improvement in sensitivity of two orders of magnitude due to its significant increase in size.”

Even if LUX makes a dark matter detection before LZ is up and running, LZ will still be necessary to confirm the detection and fully characterize the nature of WIMPS, Gaitskell said.

“This green light is a clear indication of the value the agencies see, not only in all the preparatory work that has gone into LZ, but also in the existing accomplishment of LUX and Sanford Lab these past few years,” said Simon Fiorucci, a research scientist at Brown who is the science coordinator for LUX and simulations coordinator for LZ. “LZ will be timed so that it is ready to start operations when LUX delivers its final results and reaches the limits of its technology. It will be a very natural transition.”

Harry Nelson, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and spokesperson for the LZ Collaboration, said, “We still have a lot of work to do. Basically, we got the green light to go the next green light, then the next green light.” Still, he continued, “Everyone is excited.”

Neutrino Day draws variety of ages and interests

July 1, 2014

More than 800 people attended Sanford Underground Research Facility’s 7th annual Neutrino Day festivities Saturday, July 12, in Lead. The event featured exhibits and activities, talks with scientists a mile underground, a science musical, and presentations by leading neutrino and dark matter experts.

            “I like it all,” said one child. That certainly was the sentiment among other children and adults as well. Between activities at Sanford Underground Research Facility, the Opera House, Library and the Lead/Deadwood Middle School, there was no shortage of excitement.

            Two new attractions this year were the “Space School Musical,” presented by the Dakota Players and the Journey Museum’s portable planetarium.

            "I just think it's exciting that I'm here," said Justice Scherer, who attended Neutrino Day with his cousin Emily Tieman and their grandmother. "I really love space, it's one of my favorite things to research,” said Tieman as she prepared to go into the planetarium. “I was going to make a book about it in second grade, but we never got the time to do it.”

              Many visitors started the day at the Sanford Lab, making their way through information tables, demonstrations and hoist room tours. They also talked with scientists and the emergency response team nearly a mile underground; participated in science experiments with South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Steve “the Science Guy” Rokusek; and used a solar telescope.

Meanwhile, Davis-Bahcall Scholars and Sanford Lab interns operated nearly two dozen activities outside and inside the Opera House. At one table, children built marker bots, battery-operated robots made of yogurts cups and markers that doodled as they traveled the paper-covered table. One little girl said it was the best part of her day.

Other activities included using air pressure to manipulate the size of marshmallows and exploring basic circuits using conductive dough; a engineering design challenge that required participants to move a model of LUX, and creating bracelets from UV beads that change color in sunlight.

Science lectures at the Opera House attracted nearly 400 people. Many were young, aspiring scientists who took the opportunity to meet and talk to science experts. Zack Dugué, a 7th-grader from Rapid City, attended every lecture.

            "I'm caught between astrophysics and rocket science," said Dugue.

            Presentations started with Dr. Mary Kidd, a professor at Tennessee Technological University, who discussed the Majorana Demonstrator. Later, Kidd donned a bright orange Neutrino Day shirt to mingle with guests throughout the rest of the day.

            Dr. Miland Diwan had the crowd laughing at times with his lively and informative lecture about the strange behavior of neutrinos.  Dr. Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams closed Neutrino Day with a presentation about the role of human beings in the universe.

            “This was a great event,” said Primack. “Nancy and I would love to come back again.”

Click here to see pictures from Neutrino Day.

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