UK backs huge US neutrino plan
From BBC News, Feb. 14, 2014
US researchers have given details of a plan for one of the biggest physics experiments ever built.
Scientists at Fermilab, just outside Chicago, want to fire a beam of particles called neutrinos through 1,300km (800 miles) of rock some 30km below the surface.
The experiment's aim is to learn more about how the Universe was created.
BBC News has learned that the UK has now agreed to be part of the $1.5bn (£1bn) project.
Those involved describe it as the most important experiment since the search for the Higgs boson.
"It is the next big thing in particle physics," said Prof Stefan Soldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester, who is working at Fermilab.
"It is as big as the search for the Higgs and will revolutionise our understanding of physics."
The director of Fermilab, Nigel Lockyer, told BBC News that the plan to build the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) was well under way and he was seeking international partners.
"We think that the experiment will cost $1.5bn to build and the US has committed to putting $1bn on the table. So it is a kind of 2/3rds to a 1/3rd arrangement, and so you shop around and see who wants to contribute what."
The UK, through its Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), could contribute up to £20m to the project.
BBC News understands that nine British universities would be involved. These include Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford and University College London.
The head of STFC, John Womersley, described the development as a "win-win situation".
"The UK has shown its interest in the Fermilab initiative. What I hope is that other European participants will get involved. If it can go ahead, it will be an important step for the US and an important step for Europe for a global physics programme."
The UK's role would be to help to build a giant neutrino detector. The detector is likely to be about 12m (39ft) across.