Sanford Underground Research Facility, also known as SURF, is the deepest underground lab in the United States. This underground lab in Lead, South Dakota is the leading facility for underground research in the U.S., and one of the most advanced underground labs in the world.
Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, explained the benefits of pursuing underground research in this part of South Dakota.
“Homestake operated the other location for over 125 years,” said Headley. “And so there were a lot of areas that they had opened up. There was a lot of infrastructure as well that we know, like the shafts to get underground and ventilation and so forth, so there was a lot of great infrastructure here. The Rock was what we call a competent.”
Jared Thompson, a scientist with Majorana Demonstrator, explained SURF’s research vision.
“The idea for Majorana was to install a certain mass of germanium in a very low background area, such as a mile underground, in radio pure copper that we created ourselves and cleaned, inside a layer of lead bricks that we cleaned ourselves and know the history of. What we’re hoping to see is that when those two atoms decay at the exact same time, the neutrinos would meet, annihilate each other and then we would not see them leave the space. You know the whole metaphor of listening to one conversation in a stadium? You have to make the stadium go quiet so you can hear the the one little whisper between two people. We’ve got vital panels covering the top roof sides and bottom of the shielding,” said Thompson.
Dr. David Woodward, a scientist with the Lux-Zeplin Experiment, explained the purpose of the experiment and what exactly the scientists are looking for in the underground lab.
“The project is called Lux-Zeplin, LZ for short, and it’s a dark matter experiment,” said Woodward. “So, we’re looking to directly detect dark matter. Dark matter, It’s something that we know makes up about a quarter of the universe, but we’ve never directly detected it and very little is known about its properties or what it actually is. It’s filled with ten tons of liquid xenon. And the concept is really simple; all we’re doing is waiting for dark matter particles to come and bump into our detector.”
According to Headley, SURF expects to have 1.6 billion in economic output within ten years, which translates to about 1,100 jobs in the state of South Dakota.
For more information about SURF, the Majorana Demonstrator Experiment and the Lux-Zeplin Project, visit the Sanford Underground Research Facility’s website here.