Skip to main content

Lead, S.D. -- Sanford Lab personnel and contractors have remodeled a former Homestake warehouse, which will serve as a surface laboratory and assembly facility for a dark-matter detector. The lab includes a clean room, where scientists will assemble and test the Large Underground Xenon dark-matter detector, or LUX, before sending it underground in 2010. (CLICK HERE for more information on the LUX surface lab.)

The first-ever detection of dark matter will be a major step toward better understanding the fundamental nature of the universe.

Sanford Lab crews also are driving a second access tunnel to the Davis Cavern on Homestake's 4,850-foot level, where the LUX detector will be installed. The Davis Cavern is named for the late Dr. Ray Davis, who in 1965 installed an experiment there to measure subatomic particles called neutrinos that are produced in stars. Dr. Davis was measuring neutrinos produced in our own sun, and in 2002 he was awarded a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work.

LUX will search for a phenomenon even more elusive than the tiny neutrino -- "dark matter." Based on the rotation of galaxies, their movements in relation to each other and other observations, scientists think dark matter could be more than five times more plentiful in the universe than ordinary matter.

A leading candidate for dark matter is a particle dubbed the "weakly interracting massive particle," or WIMP. LUX will look for evidence of WIMP interractions in 350 kilograms of liquid xenon. The xenon will be contained in a cryostat that will be placed inside a sleeve of water in the Davis Cavern. Experiments to detect and measure neutrinos, dark matter and other subatomic phenomena are installed deep underground to shield them from background cosmic radiation.

Sanford Lab personnel and contractors also have remodeled a former Homestake warehouse as a LUX surface lab, complete with clean room, where scientists will assemble and test the LUX detector before sending it underground in 2010.  LUX detector equipment already had begun to arrive by the end of November 2009. Major shipments were expected in December, and installation at the 4,850-foot level is scheduled for late spring or summer of 2010.

Dr. Rick Gaitskell of Brown University and Dr. Tom Shutt of Case Western Reserve University are the principal investigators for LUX.