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Sanford Underground Lab at Homestake

This is an educational interactive Virtual Field Experience of the Sanford Underground Lab at Homestake in Lead, South Dakota.
by

Spencer Cody

on 6 October 2013

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Transcript of Sanford Underground Lab at Homestake


The Yates Shaft
The Big X
Exhaust Drift
The Little X
The Majorana Demostrator is kept in an ultra-clean environment to avoid contamination from radioisotopes.
The Majorana Demonstrator uses very sensitive equipment to monitor neutrinoless double beta decay reactions.
The Majorana Demonstrator requires parts that were machined in a clean lab using copper formed from electroplating to remove radioisotope impurities.
Ventilation Drift
The Majorana Demonstrator experiment is currently studying the phenomenon of neutrinoless double beta decay that could eventually reveal whether subatomic particles such as neutrinos can be their own anti-particle. Successful detection of this special type of decay could help solve the mystery as to why matter prevailed over anti-matter.
The Majorana Demonstrator requires a high level of cleanliness in order to detect signs of special types of decay. This is the checkpoint for the lower grade clean room in which both the Majorana Demonstrator and the LUX Detector are housed.
All visitors must go through this checkpoint in order to keep the rest of the lab free of particulates and other contaminants found within the rest of the mine.
The corridor leading to the clean rooms in which the Majorana Demonstrator and the LUX Detector are housed in is lined with many types of duct work and piping in order to meet all of the material and energy demands for a major physics lab.
Extreme care had to be taken in order to ensure that the experiment was not contaminated during its construction. All of the copper used in the detector was formed from electrolysis on site in a clean room to produce a super-pure grade of copper.
The people who work on physics experiments at the Sanford Deep Underground Lab are both scientists and students with an interest in finding more about the universe and trying to solve some of nature's mysteries. If you have an interest in physics or science in general, one day you may work in a world-class laboratory like this.
The LUX Detector covers two stories in the lab. The detector is housed in the same cavern used by Ray Davis's neutrino experiment in the 1960s. LUX is the most sensitive dark matter detector ever built. Why search for dark matter? Dark matter is a yet-to-be detected substance that may be the most common form of matter in the universe.
The top floor of the LUX Detector includes systems that can monitor the detector from the surface.
Toward the back of the lab is the room in which the detector was initially housed before being lowered into the tank of xenon. Since the LUX detector relies on super-cooled xenon, liquid nitrogen must be brought into the lab by rail on a consistent basis.
The LUX Detector relies on a complex system of computer controlled valves that keeps the xenon in the detector in a super-cooled state with the hopes that a large concentration of dense xenon could interact with dark matter. Several safety systems (containment tank and inflatable bag) need to be in place to ensure xenon is not vented into the lab in case a containment issue arises with the detector.
The Yates Shaft is currently the only point of entry for visitors to the lab while the Ross Shaft is under construction. In order to get to the 4,850 foot level, an open-cage miners' elevator must lower visitors down a dark and wet shaft for over ten minutes. That's why they call it "deep underground science!"
The Big X, named for its obvious resemblance of the letter on a map, is an important juncture for the lab. The Big X is where rail, ventilation, electrical, water, and other lines meet. The old miner rails are still used today to transport people and materials.
The Exhaust Drift was originally built to provide additional ventilation for miners at the 4,850 level. It is still used today to ventilate the lab and serve as a connection to the Ross Shaft
Follow us as we take a brief excursion into the old mine beyond the new lab.
In the old mine, tools used by the miners can still be found reminding visitors of Homestake's gold mining past.
The Little X allows the lab to be serviced by rail, electrical, water, and other lines.
Clean Room Entrance
Full transcript