Officials break ground for the world's most advanced neutrino experiment

May 1, 2009

This rendering depicts the future NOvA detector facility on the property. Rendering by Holabird & Root.
( -- Construction begins this month on a cutting-edge physics laboratory in northern Minnesota, supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota and Congressman Bill Foster of Illinois today are joining officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Minnesota to break ground for NOvA, the world’s most advanced neutrino experiment.

"This project is part of a bold, visionary initiative which will have profound implications for our understanding of the structure and evolution of the universe," Congressman Oberstar said. "The billion-year-old rock formations in Northeast Minnesota are helping
researchers unlock mysteries of the origins of the universe."

The DOE Office of Science has provided $40.1 million in Recovery Act funding for the construction project. It will provide an additional $9.9 million in Recovery Act funding to Fermilab, which manages the project, for purchasing key high-tech components for the project from U.S. companies, enabling those firms to retain and hire workers.

Community members also are gathering in nearby Orr, Minn., for a public presentation about the project and its impact on the local community.

The NOvA project will construct the NuMI Off-Axis Electron Neutrino Appearance (NOvA) detector facility, a laboratory of the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy, near the Ash River, about 40 miles southeast of International Falls. The lab will house a 15,000-ton particle detector that will investigate the role of subatomic particles called in the origin of the universe.

"The NOvA project will fundamentally expand our understanding of neutrinos, but it will also help strengthen scientific partnerships between the University of Minnesota and Fermilab in my district,” Congressman Foster said. “Fermilab is where much of detector equipment is being built, and the neutrino beams also originate at Fermilab. This project represents the kind of investment that simultaneously supports basic scientific research, our national labs and our economy."

Construction of the facility, supported under a cooperative agreement for research between the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Minnesota, is expected to generate 60 to 80 jobs. In addition, the construction will result in procurements for concrete, steel, road-building materials and mechanical and electrical equipment from U.S. firms.

“The NOvA project is an investment in our scientific future that will help us to better understand the role that neutrinos have played in the evolution of the universe,” said Dennis Kovar, DOE Associate Director of Science for High Energy Physics. “NOvA’s groundbreaking reaffirms America’s commitment to retaining its position of leadership in accelerator-based particle physics.”

The NOvA project involves about 180 scientists and engineers from 28 institutions. The collaboration will build the neutrino detector and install it in the new laboratory. When the detector is completed, physicists will explore the mysterious behavior of neutrinos by examining pulses of neutrinos sent straight through the earth from Fermilab in Illinois to the NOvA detector facility in Minnesota. The neutrinos travel the 500 miles in less than three milliseconds.

“The planning for the NOvA Facility has been years in the making, and we’re very excited that it is becoming a reality,” said University of Minnesota physics professor Marvin Marshak, a lead faculty member on the project. “This project will provide tremendous opportunities for University of Minnesota faculty and students to work with experts from around the world on important research.”

Provided by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Explore further: Fermilab Experiment Prepares to Send Its First Neutrinos 450 miles away to Minnesota

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4 / 5 (1) May 01, 2009
I work in telecommunications, and I have often joked with my coworkers about how neutrino communications would work through the Earth and eliminate the need for satellites and trans-oceanic cables.

I had no idea it was already possible to both generate and then detect neutrino pulses...awesome!

Maybe this is just a cover for a secret project to develope a neutrino communications transceiver for the military.
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2009
You must post a lot more than me, but yeah, it has happened to me before. There are probably multiple reasons for it, like rabid Flodds attacking and biting users, but maybe they could cut it down to a minute or so.

I also hate how often I type up a long comment and then it fails to register and I lose everything. I am learning to highlight and copy long entries so I can then paste them if they disappear.
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2009
ill bet money its investment for a weapon...adjustment of a neutrino to effect matter after all, is the ultimate weapon. What better than something that passes through you, but takes a few pieces of your lungs or heart with it....

Bad news for people living between Illinois and Minnesota, eh?
not rated yet May 02, 2009
I work in telecommunications, and I have often joked with my coworkers about how neutrino communications would work through the Earth and eliminate the need for satellites and trans-oceanic cables.

fazer, buddy, you and i are always on the same articles....

ill bet money its investment for a weapon...adjustment of a neutrino to effect matter after all, is the ultimate weapon. What better than something that passes through you, but takes a few pieces of your lungs or heart with it....

You can't adjust the properties of a particle (at least not the properties with intrinsic values, e.g. mass, spin, charge, etc.) In order for something like a neutrino to interact with normal matter strongly in a reasonable fashion, it would have to have an electric charge, but then it wouldn't be a neutrino any more. Neutrino beams are produced using nuclear reactions. Any practical communications system would have to use a small particle accelerator to produce a signal and monitor large volume of matter to observe the signal. Such a system is theoretically possible, but absurdly infeasible economically.
not rated yet May 03, 2009
I was only kidding about the secret project.

As for communications applications, I am sure you are right about the complications, but, now that they are conducting research with man made emmission/detection, they might stumble across a simpler method.

The LHC proton stream will be able to produce muons and thus neutrinos, same as Fermi. I wouldn't be surprised to hear in a few years that they are conducting tests back and forth through the Earth.

Maybe one day the first neutrino backbone on the internet will originate from CERN, where the WWW concept was created.
1 / 5 (2) May 03, 2009
Unlocking the mysteries of the origins/evolution of the universe, is a very broad statement. Could someone explain exactly what they might be researching by blasting beams of neutrons through the earth?

1.3 / 5 (3) May 03, 2009
Ok. so its 150m working. 10% unemployed. 70/15m is approx a 0.0000047 increase in employment. Exact math or not its trivial even if out by a factor of several thousand.

What is it that makes the science of this project so important? You dont spend wads of money without some idea of the outcome. Lets spend 40m bucks and beam some neutrons a long distance through the planet and see what happens! Nah ... whats actually going on here?

1 / 5 (2) May 03, 2009
Perhaps I should always preface my comments with the fact that I hate government waste. In my opinion most big government science projects are a waste of time. LHC is a big fat boondoggle. Governments love to waste money on all sorts of nonsense.

That said, I still am fascinated with new ideas and discoveries. I would much rather see private enterprise explore the possible uses of neutrinos. They wouldn't even get involved unless there was some reasonable chance of success and some end use, like mapping the interior of the Earth in the search for resources to exploit. Mmmmm, yes, I said exploit. Or, as I said before, using neutrinos to communicate directly with any point on Earth.

So I guess the point here is that the government wants to pour money into the economy. As if the money wouldn't be invested into the economy by the people who earned it in the first place. That's what rich people do, they invest. Their money doesn't just go into limbo. People who make money make it because they are good at what they do (whether or not you like what they do) and they are better at spending it wisely (if not then they cease to be wealthy), so let them do what they do best. Instead, the government likes to come along and take some of that money and frivolously spend it on pet projects, usually under the guise of helping the economy.

It's like walking up to a water fountain in a park and using a bucket to catch some of the water coming out of one of the fountain streams and then pouring it into the pool as you tell everyone that you are helping to fill the pool. It is pointless and just gives the pourer something to do.
not rated yet May 03, 2009
Excellent analogy. We all want to see science going forward, but unfortunately, the fact is Uncle Sam is the main provider of funds for research. Pretty much the only game in town. I think the scientific frontier appears brighter with this administration.

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