New Fermilab detector put in place

BATAVIA – A new detector was put in place Monday that Fermilab scientists hope will help unravel some of the mysteries of the universe.

The 30-ton MicroBooNE detector was transported by truck across the Fermilab campus from the warehouse building, where it was constructed to its new home three miles away in the Liquid-Argon Test Facility. The 40-foot-long detector has been under construction for two years and will be the centerpiece of the MicroBooNE neutrino experiment.

Because of the delicate equipment involved, the journey was a slow one.

"We started at 7 a.m., and we were done by 2 p.m.," said Sam Zeller, co-spokesperson for the MicroBooNE experiment. "The truck moved quite slow. It moved at about four miles an hour. It has very sensitive detector equipment inside that took about two years to build. As physicists, we're not normally used to moving such precious equipment across an entire laboratory site three miles, from where you built it to where you placed it."

The MicroBooNE detector will allow scientists to further study the elusive properties of neutrinos. Before the experiment can begin this winter, it first must be filled with liquid argon, a heavy liquid that will release charged particles when neutrinos interact with it.

"Neutrinos are quite mysterious particles," Zeller said. "We know that they can change their identities; they can oscillate from one type to the other. So we're hoping to see that transition in this detector. It is a new type of detector in the sense that it has much greater capabilities than other neutrino detectors we've had recently."

The detector is the largest of its kind ever built in the United States, she said.

"Neutrinos are the second-most-abundant particle in the entire universe," Zeller said. "We're hoping that by understanding them and their properties a bit better, we can also understand the world we live in a bit better."

The $19.5 million project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.