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Fermilab proposes project to study neutrinos

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

FERMILAB – Fermilab scientists hope to learn more about the most abundant particles in the universe through a proposed project that would bring four new buildings to campus.

The public was invited to Fermilab on Thursday to learn more about the proposed Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment project, which would send a beam of neutrinos – particles with almost no mass that pass through many types of matter – straight through the earth to South Dakota. Construction of the new buildings near Kirk and Giese roads in Batavia could be underway as soon as 2015.

One building would be about 40 feet and 160 feet long, and would be near Kirk and Giese roads. That building would be connected to an underground hall about 200 feet below the Fermilab site. A 52-foot hill also would be constructed about 1,000 feet from Kirk Road to house part of the facility that would create the neutrinos.

The project would send neutrinos from Batavia to Lead, S.D., and no tunnel will be needed to bridge the 800-mile distance because neutrinos will pass through the earth.

The U.S. Energy Department is providing $867 million to fund the project, and Fermilab still is recruiting funding partners, said Katie Yurkewicz, Fermilab communications director. She said $57 million has been spent in planning for the project so far.

James Strait, director of the project, said neutrinos can travel through 100 million miles of lead unscathed.

He said their unique properties may give scientists a peek into places they may not be able to see, such as exploring the core of the sun or what the center of a supernova looks like at the moment it explodes. They also may provide answers as to why more matter than antimatter was produced in the Big Bang, he added.

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