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The massive Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which will be built at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, is being built with the help of South Dakota Mines students, who are leading the way in calibrating the sensors that will detect and track minute flashes of light inside. DUNE will advance research on the elusive neutrino ghost particle. DUNE is mind-boggling in its size. It is a portion of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF).

A neutrino beam will be sent directly through the Earth for more than 800 miles from Fermilab in Illinois to SURF’s DUNE particle detector, located 4,850 feet below ground. The detector is made up of seven-story-high liquid argon tanks that must be maintained at a temperature of roughly 300 degrees below zero. There will occasionally be a brief flash of light when one of the argon atoms hit by the neutrinos hammering the tanks. Researchers will gain a new knowledge of the enigmatic neutrinos thanks to the characteristics of the light produced by these interactions, which will also aid in resolving several important issues regarding the origin of matter and the universe’s evolution.

More than 1,400 people from 200 colleges and institutions in more than 30 countries are involved in the DUNE collaboration. At Mines, Ian Helgeson is completing his mechanical engineering undergraduate degree. During the previous year, he assisted in building several UV photon detector monitoring system components. He stated that the opportunity for an undergraduate to work hands-on on a top-notch experiment is wonderful.

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“Working on this enormous project with people from all around the world is one of the finest things, because I get to cooperate with them. In order to provide ground-breaking science at the conclusion of the experiment, the design standards are very strict, and the components we develop have to connect seamlessly with every other part of the experiment, Helgeson added. Helgeson contributed to solving a number of problems, including how to build incredibly effective fiber optic links.

In order to minimize light loss, we polished the ends of the optical fibers extremely well for this experiment. Many hours were spent manually completing this procedure. The photon detector monitoring system relies on the optical fiber’s flawless flatness to function properly “And he went on to say. “Among our responsibilities was the development of equipment to hasten the process of preparing the optical fibers required for DUNE while also enhancing their quality and requiring less labor.

Kole Pickner, a master’s student in mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, has recently completed his work on the project. Pickner also assisted with DUNE’s photon detector monitoring system. The detectors within DUNE function similarly to a pair of eyes, and Pickner’s role was to train them to properly interpret their surroundings. Once a component is inserted inside DUNE and the experiment is filled with liquid argon, the door can never be opened again, therefore the mechanism Pickner helped design and build had to be extremely sturdy. The parts we construct must survive for the duration of the experiment; you can’t easily crack a door open in ten or fifteen years to replace a worn element. Pickner remarked, “That’s an extra engineering difficulty here. Fresh out of college, Pickner has accepted a position with Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where he will contribute to a variety of NASA missions, including those to Mars.

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The fiber optic cables and the photon detector monitoring system components are being installed inside the ProtoDUNE detector at CERN in Switzerland, and a graduate student in physics from Mines, Jairo Rodriguez, is in charge of the project. Rodriguez was responsible for installing the technologies he and his coworkers developed and combining them with the rest of the components within the DUNE detector prototype. In order to achieve the best possible results, Rodriguez and his team are constantly making tweaks to the design of the model to bring it closer to reality.

This group has created and constructed a system to monitor photon detectors, and it is hoped that it will go live later this year. Professor of Physics at South Dakota Mines, David A. Martinez Caicedo, Ph.D., applauds this group of students for their dedication and hard work. The U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the Martinez team’s efforts on this project. In addition, he gives much credit to the many people working on DUNE with him at various other institutions.

We collaborated extensively with the group at Argonne National Laboratory lead by Dr. Zelimir Djurcic and benefited much from their knowledge and expertise in the field of photon detector monitoring systems. Martinez emphasized the importance of such partnerships, saying they were critical to the success of the students and the initiative as a whole. Martinez pointed out that the success of large-scale scientific experiments is due to more than just the brilliance of researchers.

Supply chain management and administration are crucial to the operation of a particle detector, according to Martinez. “There is a lot that goes into building these components and how they connect with all the other components in the detector,” he said. It’s a lot of work, so please accept our heartfelt gratitude for Connie Krosschell, secretary of the physics department, who played a crucial role in ensuring that the necessary materials were acquired in a timely manner.

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