A proposed neutrino experiment’s yearly greenhouse-gas emissions might be comparable to the manufacturing of 1000 automobiles. According to a new research, the major source of emissions from the Giant Array for Neutrino Detection (GRAND) project was different during construction and operation. The authors claim that their study is the first published evaluation of a large-scale physics experiment’s greenhouse-gas emissions and that it gives a technique that may be applied for future facilities.

The GRAND project, which was first proposed in 2015, intends to use 200,000 antennas scattered over hilly regions around the planet to detect ultrahigh-energy neutrinos originating from deep space. The research began with a small-scale prototype last year, but it was badly hampered by the coronavirus epidemic. Before the full-scale experiment begins in the 2030s, a mid-scale stage of the experiment is planned for 2025.

A large volume of data might result in a significant carbon footprint

The researchers looked at worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions during the course of the experiment, concentrating on three sources: travel, digital technology (such as computers, numerical simulations, and data storage), and hardware equipment (such as radio antenna manufacture and shipping).

They estimate that the prototype stage will emit 482 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year, with emissions more than doubling to 1061 tonnes of CO2e per year at the mid-scale stage. The full-scale experiment is expected to emit 13,385 CO2e per year, a 12-fold increase. According to the experts, such an output is equivalent to about 8000 roundtrip trips from France to Western China or the production of 1000 vehicles.

According to the report, digital technology and transport will account for 69 percent and 27 percent of emissions in the prototype phase, respectively. However, once the main project is up and running, travel-related emissions will reduce to just 7%. The majority of emissions will thereafter be split by hardware (48 percent) and digital technologies (48 percent) (45 percent ). The three sources are projected to contribute about equally in the mid-scale phase. According to the partnership, it will now create a green policy that members will be urged to adopt.

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Impact on the environment

The effect of digital technology shocked physicist Kumiko Kotera of the Sorbonne University in Paris, who co-founded the GRAND project and co-authored the paper, according to Physics World. Even transporting hard drives by plane might create less emissions than online data transfer, according to the research. “We feel that while people are generally aware of the emissions associated with travel and hardware equipment manufacture, they often overlook the fact that big volumes of data can result in a significant carbon footprint,” she says. These pollutants may be difficult to address, according to Kotera, but technical advancements and changes in power sources are progressing in the correct direction.

Similar research, according to Kotera, will become more prevalent in the future, and they have already been approached by other scientists who want to evaluate their own trials. “Large-scale physics and astrophysics projects employ a major portion of the scientific workforce and consume a considerable portion of the science budget,” Kotera adds. “As a result, it is necessary to evaluate their environmental impact.”

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