Equipment to hunt down dark matter moving underground in Lead


LEAD, S.D. – The Sanford Underground Research Facility lowered groundbreaking equipment nearly a mile underground to find and research dark matter.

The central component of LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) is the largest direct-detection dark matter experiment in the U.S.. The 5,000 pound, nine-foot-tall particle detector was slowly lowered 4,850 feet down a shaft formerly used in gold-mining operations.

The final journey of LZ’s central detector on Oct. 21 to it’s resting place in a custom-build research cavern required extensive planning and involved two test “dummy” detectors to ensure the final equipment made it down safe.

“This was the most challenging move of a detector system that I have ever done in decades of working on experiments,” said Jeff Cherwinka, the LZ chief engineer from the University of Wisconsin, who led the planning effort for the move along with SURF engineers and other support.

“Between the size of the device, the confines of the space, and the multiple groups involved in the move, the entire process required rigorous attention to both the design and the scheduling. Prior to rigging the detector under the cage, we did testing with other cranes to see how it would react when suspended,” said Jake Davis, a SURF mechanical engineer who worked on the cryostat move. “We also completed analysis and testing to ensure it would remain nice and straight in the shaft.”

Work can now begin to test how liquid xenon, a very rare element, chilled to 148 degrees below zero will help show signs of dark matter.

Experts say that dark matter makes up about 27 percent of the universe, though it remains very mysterious, we do not yet know what it is made of.

The experiment is set to begin in November and continue through July 2020.

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