Shifting light for NOvA
PPD's Irina Kubantseva will help test the wavelength shifters in the
Fermilab chemistry lab when the first shipment arrives in September.
As progress continues on the construction site of the NOvA project in northern Minnesota, the first major material item for the future neutrino detector is under production in eastern Pennsylvania.
In June, Fermilab awarded a $2.1 million contract in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to a small company in Bucks County, Pa., that will manufacture roughly 8,700 kilograms of two chemical powders, dubbed wavelength shifters, for the experiment.
"The Recovery Act has been vital to jump-starting our economy in Bucks County by saving and creating jobs and investing in energy and technology," said Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Pa.
When complete, the 15,000-ton NOvA detector will be 71 feet tall, 63 feet wide, 471 feet long and contain a tank filled with 3 million gallons of liquid scintillator. Roughly 99 percent of the liquid consists of mineral oil and pseudocumene, a scintillating agent. The wavelength shifters, two powdered chemicals called PPO and bis-MSB, make up less than 1 percent.
"The chemicals are the crucial element here," said Fermilab physicist John Cooper, project manager for the NOvA experiment.
Scientists use the chemicals to change the wavelength of particles of light, called photons, into the required range for the experiment. "One type of photon comes in, and another comes out," Cooper said. "Due to the sheer size of NOvA, it takes a lot of the chemicals."
Fermilab will receive the complete order of wavelength shifters during the next year, with the first 15 percent arriving in September.
Fermilab awarded the contract to Curtiss Laboratories after a rigorous bidding and technical evaluation process. The nine-person company has reliably supplied chemicals to Fermilab for more than 10 years.
Murphy, a strong supporter of basic research, commended the Bucks County business for contributing to a future particle physics project. "It is a testament to the employees in Bucks County," he said. "We are very proud."
-- Elizabeth Clements