Neutrino probe goes under the ground

By Liang Qiwen (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-10-15 07:19

SHENZHEN: A China-US collaborated neutrino experiment expected to hopefully unravel one of the mysteries of the universe was launched at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Shenzhen, in South China's Guangdong Province, on Saturday.

The Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is leading the experiment on neutrinos, which are elementary particles that travel close to the speed of light.

More than 190 physicists from 34 research institutes of China, the US, Russia and the Czech Republic will work together for the experiment, including the Department of Energy (DOE) of the United States.

The experiment costs 250 million yuan ($32 million), one-third of which is foreign investment.

In order to shield the experiment from unwanted cosmic radiation, scientists have started to excavate a long tunnel in a mountain that is close to the reactors.

When construction finishes, they will install the experiment facilities inside.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2009, and data collection will begin by the end of 2010.

The experiment is expected to reach its designed scientific goal by 2013.

The neutrino's properties have been known to researchers for years, yet still there are many unsolved puzzles.

Some unknowns include the actual mass of a neutrino, and whether a neutrino has any magnetic properties.

Research on neutrinos could give scientists an insight into the mass of the whole universe but also help them discover the secrets of the structure of matter and of planets in deep space.

Experts believe the final result of the experiment will unveil the mystery of anti-matter disappearance in the universe.

Robin Staffin, deputy director of Office of Science, DOE of the United States, said the experiment was a great human adventure and the US was proud to be a part of it.

Daya Bay is the best place in the world for this kind of experiment, prestigious international physicist Tsung Dao Lee said in a congratulatory letter for the experiment.

"Daya Bay has plenty of mountains and the high power of Daya Bay reactor provides a great amount of neutrinos for the experiment," Wang Yifang, the project leader, explained.

There are another two similar experiments located in France and Republic of Korea.

However, the Daya Bay experiment will provide the precise results physicists require.

Experts said the project was presently one of the most important physics experiments in the world.

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