Construction Begins on Project to Find Dark Matter With 10 Tons of Liquid Xenon a Mile Underground in an Abandoned Gold Mine

The work of over 200 engineers, it will be 30 times larger than its predecessor.

Sanford Lab

The LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment is an ambitious, hyperbolic project. An entire mile below the ground, in an abandoned gold mine that now serves as Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), scientists and engineers will build the most sensitive dark matter detector ever made, which includes a giant tank that will contain 10 tons of liquid xenon. Now, it's finally under construction.

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It's the culmination of years of carefully coordinated planning. LEO A DALY, the architecture firm renovating the cavern where the LZ will soon live, was sketching up the modifications even as the final details of the experiment itself were being confirmed.

The renovations involve a whole host of construction and demolition work. An obsolete clean room will be demolished to make way for a computer control system. Another wall will be taken down to create a giant room for four compressors and a backup generator that will suck up literal tons of xenon in case of an emergency. And after the experiment is installed, a number of 3-inch thick steel plates will be installed to protect the water tank that contains it from excess radiation.

After all the prep is finished, all that will be left to do is wait. Physicists will carefully monitor the shielded liquid xenon for the presence of "weakly interacting massive particles" or WIMPs, which are believed to pass through most matter without a trace. The LZ experiment should remain active for some five years, after which we should either have evidence of WIMPs, or a conspicuous lack thereof. And, either way, an extremely tricked-out cavern housing 10 tons of liquid xenon a mile beneath the Earth's surface in an abandoned gold mine, which seems like a success in and of itself.

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