Fermilab Today Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009

MicroBooNE receives CD-0

Fermilab has moved a step closer to constructing a new neutrino experiment. The Department of Energy has given Critical Decision-0 approval to a new booster neutrino experiment called MicroBooNE.

The experiment will look for potential anomalies in low-energy neutrino interactions, which were first reported by the MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab in 2007. MicroBooNE will use the same neutrino beam that traverses the MiniBooNE detector and explore the behavior of muon neutrinos made by a proton beam from the Booster accelerator at Fermilab.

The CD-0 approval establishes DOE mission need for the MicroBooNE experiment. The MicroBooNE collaboration now will develop detailed engineering plans for further DOE review and determine the final cost of the experiment, which will be less than $20 million. Scientists hope to receive CD-1, 2 and 3 approvals before the end of 2010 to begin the construction of the experiment as soon as possible. About 60 scientists from 13 institutions work on the experiment.

The MiniBooNE experiment, which still takes data, uses light-sensitive sensors and a tank filled with more than 800 tons of highly transparent mineral oil to catch neutrinos. In contrast, MicroBooNE will feature the largest liquid-argon time projection chamber ever built in the United States. A time projection chamber is a particle detector that recreates with beautiful precision the three dimensional trajectory of a charged particle produced in a particle collision. MicroBooNE's TPC will hold about 100 tons of liquid argon cooled to minus 187 degrees Celsius. The TPC will be 12 meters long and have a width and height of 2.5 meters, making it more than 300 times larger than the largest chamber in the United States, which is located inside the Argon Neutrino Test detector at Fermilab.

The liquid-argon TPC technology allows scientists to record detailed tracks of charged particles emerging from neutrino-argon collisions, similar to particle tracks recorded by bubble chambers. The ArgoNeuT detector recorded its first tracks from neutrino interactions in June.

"We have made tremendous progress with the liquid-argon technology in the last three years," said Yale University physicist Bonnie Fleming, spokesperson of the MicroBooNE experiment. "We now have the knowledge to build an important neutrino experiment with this technology. Equally important, MicroBooNE is a crucial step toward developing a liquid-argon neutrino detector for the proposed Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment."

LBNE would analyze a neutrino beam traveling more than 1,000 kilometers through the earth. The experiment requires detectors that contain tens of kilotons of material and can identify particle interactions with great accuracy.

— Kurt Riesselmann

Result of the Week Archive

The MicroBooNE experiment will use a time-projection chamber filled with about 100 tons of liquid argon to look for anomalies in low-energy neutrino interactions.

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