SDSM&T unveils new particle accelerator at Sanford Lab

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LEAD, S.D. -

On Wednesday morning at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, scientists from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology sent the first beam in their brand new particle accelerator.

The beam creates a small fusion nuclear reaction, used in the creation of heavy elements. Those elements are naturally created within stars across the universe, due to their large density. Dr. Frank Strieder, an associate professor of physics at the School of Mines, said understanding this process will help us better understand the known universe.

"We should understand the process [of] how the heavy elements - which are all in our body, like carbon, oxygen, but also iron and elements up to uranium - are made,” said Strieder. “We are studying the processes that create these elements inside stars, because these elements could only be produced in the interior of very large, massive stars."

The underground accelerator is the first in the United States and the second in the world, with the other being in Italy. Strider said having the detector underground is very important to his research.


"Above ground, the detector would be bombarded by cosmic rays,” Strieder said. “They produce events in our detector similar to the events which we expect from our signal. And going underground, we remove these events and enhance the sensitivity of our detector."

Astrophysicists will be able to use the data to construct models showing the evolution of stars.

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