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Physics community supports expansion plans for SURF
Constance Walter

As the deepest underground laboratory in the United States—and among the deepest in the world—the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) is home to world-leading experiments in physics, biology, geology, and engineering. SURF’s mission is to advance world-class science and inspire learning across generations. Progress made in 2022 reflects that commitment to both science and learning—all performed with a stellar safety record.

Science community endorses SURF expansion

SURF hosts world-leading experiments in a range of disciplines but must expand its underground footprint to host future experiments and remain a world-leading laboratory.

In July, the U.S. particle physics community met in Seattle to develop their 10-year strategic vision for the future of underground science and plans for next-generation experiments. This vision will drive future federal funding priorities for science. SURF participated in these discussions and received strong support from the U.S. particle physics community to expand its underground footprint to host next-generation, world-leading experiments and help the United States remain a world leader in research. As the SURF operator, the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) developed a phased plan to expand the SURF underground footprint to host up to six additional major experiments on the 4850-foot level.

Economic Impacts

A recent economic impact study of SURF activities for the years 2020-2029, projects an economic impact of $2 billion and an increase of 1,200 jobs in South Dakota.


In July, the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) dark matter experiment, located on the 4850-foot level, announced it is the world’s leading dark matter detector. In a highly competitive global field to be the first experiment to detect dark matter, LZ published a world-leading science result after just three months of data-taking operations.

Making Science Happen—Safely

Many activities happen at SURF to make it possible for science to continue. The shafts and hoists, electrical systems, and facility maintenance are essential to the success of science.

  • Excavation for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility began in 2021 and is now 46% complete. The massive caverns will house the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which could unlock the universe’s greatest mysteries. Cavern excavation will complete in 2023; more than 1,400 DUNE scientists from 37 countries and CERN will come to SURF to do research.
  • Over the past year, the 1700 Level at SURF was transformed into a testing ground for Caterpillar’s underground tracking systems. The systems are designed to keep workers safe while underground and enable autonomous equipment operation.
  • This year, the SDSTA received International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification in three areas: quality management, environmental management, and worker health and safety. The certification demonstrates that SURF performs its work on par with the 17 U.S. National Laboratories.

Education and Outreach

SURF is dedicated to delivering programming for K-12 students and educators in South Dakota. Student programs include field trip experiences, classroom presentations and curriculum modules, all focused on where students do science rather than only reading about it. In 2021-22, 20,000 K-12 students were served, and 1,000 teachers participated in professional development.

Enhanced Geothermal Systems

To advance geothermal energy solutions, the Enhanced Geothermal Systems experiment is seeking ways to “enhance” permeability in rock formations by opening existing fractures or creating new fractures.” In geothermal energy, heat from below Earth’s surface is used to create renewable energies. Using the deep subsurface rock on the 4100-foot Level at SURF allows the experiment to test a variety of rock stimulation methods. This year, the Enhanced Geothermal Systems team received the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Director's Award for Exceptional Team Achievement in Science and Technology.

Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center

In January, the SDSTA acquired the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center. The facility features a museum store and exhibit hall that highlights the rich history of Lead and the research at SURF. In July, the Visitor Center was awarded a 2022 Traveler’s Choice Award by Trip Advisor for excellence in visitor experience.

Coming in 2023: The Institute for Underground Science at SURF

The SDSTA advanced plans to launch a new global Institute for Underground Science at SURF in mid-2023. The Institute will serve as a center for the science community to collaborate on underground research and the advance of education and outreach programs.

SURF is operated by the SDSTA with funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Our mission is to advance world-class science and inspire learning across generations. Visit SURF at