To help scientists uncover the secrets of dark matter, architects and engineers with LEO A DALY are heading a mile underground, retrofitting part of an abandoned gold mine into one of the most specialized cleanrooms on earth.
The Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) is a sprawling complex of underground labs that occupies the former Homestake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota. Here, shielded by a mile of rock from the interfering radiation that bombards the earth, chemist Ray Davis, Jr., performed the first solar neutrino experiments. These experiments, conducted from 1970 to 1994, earned Davis a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics.
That same cavern—located 4,850 feet underground—is now part of the Davis Campus, and is being adapted to conduct the next generation of dark matter experiments. In an unprecedented collaboration known as LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), a consortium of 250 scientists and 37 institutions will use the most sensitive detector on earth and 20 percent of the world’s annual production of liquid xenon to directly detect Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). Scientists believe these hypothetical particles could help explain the nature of dark matter, which comprises about 85 percent of the mass in the Universe.