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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2014 / 07 

New detector continues search for fourth neutrino

July 3, 2014

The time projection chamber is being loaded
The time projection chamber is loaded in a tank, which will be submerged in 170 tons of liquid argon.

Physicists from Virginia Tech will soon have a new detector to monitor as a 30-ton, 40-foot-long metal tank was lowered into place June 23 at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab site.

Scientists with Virginia Tech’s Center for Neutrino Physics are responsible for the online monitoring of the system core to ensure safe detector operations and a muon veto system, according to Camillo Mariani, assistant professor of physics.

Designed to detect neutrinos, the tank contains a 32-foot long “time projection chamber” equipped with more than 8,000 gilded wires which will allow scientists to further study neutrinos and their role in the universe.

The MicroBooNE detector will now be filled with 170 tons of liquid argon, a heavy liquid that will release charged particles when neutrinos interact with it. The detector’s three layers of wires will capture pictures of these interactions at different points in time and send that information to the experiment’s computers.

Using one of the most sophisticated processing programs ever designed for a neutrino experiment, computers will create 3-D images of the most interesting interactions. The MicroBooNE team will use that data to learn more about how neutrinos change from one type (or “flavor”) to another, and narrow the search for a hypothesized fourth type of neutrino.