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Expanding America's Underground Research Facility

Competition for underground laboratory space is fierce. Watch the video below to see how SURF intends to secure future world-leading experiments.
Aerial photo of the Ross and Yates Shaft

Competition for underground laboratory space is fierce

Major USA-funded experiments recently chose underground labs in Canada and Italy because they have space available now. Sanford Underground Research Facility must expand to remain competitive worldwide and to continue drawing world-leading research to South Dakota.

In July 2022, 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.

The U.S. Particle Physics community strongly recommended that new underground space be excavated on the 4850-foot Level of SURF to house next-generation experiments. 

In 2023, the State of South Dakota allocated $13M to fund Phase One of the expansion plan. 

Projected Net Economic Impact

Jobs Created over 10 years

Map of 4850 level showing the phased expansion

4850 Level Expansion Plan

Phase One: $13M commitment from the State of South Dakota 

Excavate tunnels to create a pathway for future large cavern construction

Phase Two: Seeking private funding $100M+

Excavate two large caverns for next-generation experiments

SURF's Current Impact

SURF currently hosts 29 ongoing research projects. Members from South Dakota universities are involved in 24 of the 29 ongoing research projects at SURF. Additionally, SURF's education program reached thousands of students and teachers across the state.

SD students reached annually

Teachers reached annually

A researcher looks at germanium detectors.

An investment in SURF is an investment in South Dakota

Next-generation experiments are seeking underground space now

  • We must expand SURF to lead the world in science and technology research.
  • Expanding SURF will keep USA-funded experiments in the United States.
  • Increased laboratory space ensures the future of SURF for generations to come.
  • The commitment from the State of South Dakota will inspire private investment.
  • Expansion now saves excavation mobilization costs of ~$15M.
4 pratical applications of research

Outcomes of expansion

Practical application of reserch

  • Secure world-leading experiments with up to $500M in revenue per cavern.
  • Position South Dakota as a global leader in science and technology research.
  • Create well-paying jobs for South Dakotans and generate millions in economic development for our entire state.
  • Increase opportunities for South Dakota students, from kindergarten through doctoral studies.