Canada Digs Deep for Particle Physics

Rolling forward. New money will equip Sudbury mine for more than just neutrino hunting.

Canadian science isn't merely scratching the surface--it's going deep underground. On 1 December, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), a government-founded corporation intended to foster science and technology research, announced a $30 million grant to create an international underground laboratory in an Ontario nickel mine.

The Sudbury mine is already famous for its neutrino observatory, which detects nearly massless particles that stream from the sun and from cosmic ray collisions. Because the weak signal from neutrinos can be swamped by stray particles that bombard Earth, the neutrino observatory must be sited deep underground to shield it from those wayward particles.

CFI's grant is intended to expand the scientific laboratory space at the mine. "The funding we provide is funding for facilities--the cost of excavation of the underground cavern" and some other support, says Carmen Charette, senior vice president of CFI. The grant will make room for some yet-to-be selected experiments that need shielding from cosmic rays, such as a search for dark matter or a detector that will attempt to spot a rare nuclear decay.

"Sudbury's a great idea, but it's limited in scope," says John Wilkerson of the University of Washington, Seattle, who is pushing for a more ambitious underground laboratory in the United States. Right now, though, Canada has a head start in the quest to find buried scientific treasure.

Related site
The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory

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