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ProtoDUNE’s argon filling underway

This will be a significant step towards testing ProtoDUNE for the next era of neutrino research


ProtoDUNE begins liquid argon filling (Image: CERN)

ProtoDUNE begins liquid argon filling (Image: CERN)

CERN’s Neutrino Platform houses a prototype of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) known as ProtoDUNE, which is designed to test and validate the technologies that will be applied to the construction of the DUNE experiment in the United States.

Recently, ProtoDUNE has entered a pivotal stage: the filling of one of its two particle detectors with liquid argon. Filling such a detector takes almost two months, as the chamber is gigantic – almost the size of a three-storey building. ProtoDUNE’s second detector will be filled in the autumn.

ProtoDUNE will use the proton beam from the Super Proton Synchrotron to test the detecting of charged particles. This argon-filled detector will be crucial to test the detector response for the next era of neutrino research. Liquid argon is used in DUNE due to its inert nature, which provides a clean environment for precise measurements. When a neutrino interacts with argon, it produces charged particles that ionise the atoms, allowing scientists to detect and study neutrino interactions. Additionally, liquid argon's density and high scintillation light yield enhance the detection of these interactions, making it an ideal medium for neutrino experiments.

Interestingly, the interior of the partially filled detector now appears green instead of its usual golden colour. This is because the light emitted by the LEDs shifts to shorter wavelengths when cooled by the liquid argon.

The DUNE far detector, which will be roughly 20 times bigger than protoDUNE, is being built in the United States. DUNE will send a beam of neutrinos from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) near Chicago, Illinois, over a distance of more than 1300 kilometres through the Earth to neutrino detectors located 1.5 km underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota.

Watch a short time-lapse video of protoDUNE being filled with liquid argon: