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Physics panel recommends support for more space in SURF for next decade

Stephen Kenny
Sanford Underground Research Facility

A particle physics panel is recommending the US Department of Energy to keep prioritizing neutrino research in the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead.

The group recommends funding a third underground neutrino detector and expanding research space.

“The P5 report highlights the important role that SURF plays in the advancement of physics in the United States and around the world,” said Mike Headley, executive director for the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority and Laboratory Director of SURF.

The Sanford Underground Research Facility in the northern Black Hills is the deepest underground science research facility in the US and one of the deepest in the world.

That subsurface capability provides a low-background environment required for sensitive physics experiments with neutrinos and dark matter.

"DOE support for outfitting the resulting caverns into a laboratory space would provide a US home for a G3 WIMP dark matter search, as well as space for other future particle or nuclear physics experiments for neutrinos or dark matter," the report states.

The Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, or P5, distills what scientists need to accomplish future research. The group meets every decade.

Jaret Heise, science director at SURF, said the panel's report is focused on a need for more underground space.

“The recommendation from the P5 panel really focused on the next generations of neutrino and dark matter physics finding a home on US soil, and therefore SURF, as part of the expansion of the 4,850-foot level,” Heise said.

SURF has already started an expansion project at that level, aided by a $13 million appropriation from state lawmakers two years ago. Two research areas, the Ross campus and Davis campus, are already full.

Officials at SURF say they’re seeking private funding to excavate new underground spaces.

The panel calls the deep underground neutrino experiment, or DUNE, a centerpiece of a decades long effort to solve the mystery of the neutrino. That project will send neutrinos from Chicago to detectors underground in Lead. The panel even recommends adding an additional neutrino detector.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.