Proposed neutrino experiment bounces back, ready to move on
||Fermilab Deputy Director Young-Kee Kim speaks during a workshop about LBNE reconfiguration. Photo: Fermilab|
A few months ago, the future seemed uncertain for what could be the world's most powerful neutrino experiment.
Now, thanks to a new phased construction plan, the proposed Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment is back on track and ready to advance to the next stage of the U.S. Department of Energy approval process.
Scientists outlined the phased approach of the LBNE experiment in a report released [last] week.
"This project is a great opportunity for the United States and the worldwide particle physics community," said Young-Kee Kim, deputy director of Fermilab, the host laboratory for LBNE. "It builds on the strength we have."
The proposed LBNE experiment would take advantage of decades of research and development in the area of neutrino physics at Fermilab.
Neutrinos are ghostly particles that interact with other matter so infrequently they can sail right through thousands of miles of rock. Yet, because neutrinos are so ubiquitous, scientists think they played a crucial role in the evolution of the universe.
Worldwide neutrino research efforts gained momentum in March when the Daya Bay experiment in China pinpointed a critical neutrino property known as theta-13, one of the long-sought quantities that describe how often a certain type of neutrino morphs into another type. Scientists working on the RENO neutrino experiment in Korea confirmed the value of theta-13 when they announced their own measurement a few weeks later. If the measure had been a very small value, an experiment like LBNE might have a difficult time answering the next questions in neutrino physics. But theta-13 turned out to be quite large, giving LBNE the potential to make a comprehensive set of new measurements.
"I have no doubt that we are going to do this science," said LBNE co-spokesperson Milind Diwan of Brookhaven National Laboratory. "The question is: Is it going to be done in the United States?"
In March, Bill Brinkman, the director of the Department of Energy's Office of Science, informed LBNE scientists that the U.S. government could not finance the experiment as had been proposed. He asked Pier Oddone, the director of Fermilab, to reorganize the proposed construction plan into less expensive phases, with the first phase costing about $700-800 million.