NGC 891 by Johannes Schedler, Panther Observatory, Austria

California Polytechnic State University Physics Department
San Luis Obispo, California
Neutrino Research at Gran Sasso National Laboratory
2009 Trip Reports

Technical Information

Last Update:  Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 5:00 AM, U.S. Pacific Time

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About LNGS and Neutrino Research

The CUORE project utilizes tellurium-dioxide crystals to study neutrinos that are naturally produced in the universe.  Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles making up the universe.  Mysterious, unseen, and very difficult to detect, neutrinos are almost-massless particles that pass through the Earth, and human beings, at close to the speed of light with little to no affect (that we know of).  Fifty trillion neutrinos pass through the human body every second.

The vast majority of neutrinos were created when the universe began with the "Big Bang" 13.7 billion years ago, but they are also produced from nuclear fusion and radioactive decay in living stars, like our sun, from dying stars in massive supernova explosions, and by nuclear power generating stations like the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.  Neutrino research attempts to unravel the mysteries of the laws of nature and explain how the universe works, expanding our understanding of our solar system, the Earth and living creatures. Neutrino research is commonly performed deep underground to shield detection equipment from cosmic rays and other background radiation that would interfere with the accuracy of desired test results.

Cal Poly's Physics team is supporting the "Three Towers Test" project involving the study of "Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay".  Links to detailed information about this area of research are provided below. 

Technically, CUORE and Three Towers Test neutrino research is considered to be low-energy.  This research involves looking for an extremely rare (perhaps non-existent) decay process which occurs around 2.5 MeV (one million electron volts).  Compare this to the proton-proton center of mass energies of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (around 14 TeV -- a trillion electron volts, over a million times the energies involved in the CUORE experiment).  Tom believes that the only high-energy physics being performed at the Gran Sasso Lab is primarily concerned with neutrino beams being fired from CERN interacting with the OPERA experiment at the Gran Sasso Lab in Hall C.

The LNGS underground facility is comprised of three monstrous horizontal caverns and connecting roadway service tunnels built to the side of a public highway tunnel (photo) 6 miles long running through the 9,500 foot tall Gran Sasso Mountain that is part of the Apennine Mountains.  Access to the lab is via this highway system having exit and entrance tunnels as depicted in the diagram below.


Click on images for larger versions

LNGS Quick Facts

 - Located within the Gran Sasso National Park
 - Above-ground office facilities (photo) are located in
Assergi (photo), population 500, 75 miles east of Rome
 - Average depth below surface (mountain coverage) of the underground lab is 4,593 feet
 - Three experimental halls A, B & C (photo) each approx 330 feet long, 65 feet wide, 59 feet high
 - Average temperature in the underground lab is about 55 degrees
 - Workforce of approximately 750 scientists from 22 countries working on 15 experiments
 - Main research topics of the present programs are:
     Neutrino physics with neutrinos naturally produced in the Sun and in supernova explosions and neutrino
     oscillations with a beam from CERN's  CNGS - CERN Neutrinos to Gran Sasso project, search for
     neutrino mass in neutrinoless double beta decay, dark matter search, and nuclear reactions of
     astrophysical interest.
 - Time difference between California and Italy is 9 hours  (9 AM in California = 6 PM in Italy)

Virtual Tour   LNGS Tour 

When clicking on a particular link on the tour web page, a photo window will appear, which is a 360-degree panorama.  Place your mouse pointer over the image and left-click & hold while slightly sliding the mouse left and right to horizontally rotate the image.  In the list of items (links) on the left side of the lab diagram map, click on the following interesting links:
      - Percorso Guidato   view from the above-ground office facility
      - Snodo sale lab. sott.   view the inside of access/service tunnels
      - Sala A - LVD   view of cavern Room A
      - Sala B   view of cavern Room B
      - Sala C - BOREXINO   view of cavern Room C
      - interno sfera   view of the inside of the sphere portion of BOREXINO

Technical Neutrino Research Information

Double Beta Decay  Wikipedia
What is CUORE/Cuoricino?  Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
The U.S.- CUORE Collaboration   PDF, 8 pages, 4.1 megs  April 2006
CUORE   PDF, 33 pages, 8.7 megs  September 2006
CUORE Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay 
     2007 Europhysics Conference on High Energy Physics, Journal of Physics  PDF, 4 pages
Search for Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay with CUORICINO and Prospects for CUORE  
     Proceedings of the 30th International Cosmic Ray Conference  PDF, 4 pages, 1 meg 
CUORICINO and CUORE - Neutrinoless double beta decay searches with low temperature detectors
     LNGS, PDF, 22 pages, 3.4 megs

Neutrino and Particle Physics Information

BooNE - Booster Neutrino Experiment: About Neutrinos  Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Electron Neutrinos and Antineutrinos   HyperPhysics
Introduction to Neutrino Astronomy   John Learned, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Neutrino  Wikipedia
  Universe Today
Neutrino Physics at FermiLab
Neutrinos Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Neutrinos Matter  PDF, 24 pages, 2.2 megs   Fermi BooNE Booster Neutrino Experiment
Particle Physics Education Sites
Supernovas: Making Astronomical History: Neutrinos  SNEWS SuperNova Early Warning System
The Ghost Particle  PBS NOVA
What is a Neutrino?  Scientific American
What's a Neutrino?  School of Physical Sciences, UC Irvine

Neutrino News

Radio Telescopes Turn the Moon into World's Largest Neutrino Detector Popular Science, Aug. 2009
Supernova Starting Gun: Neutrinos Focus Physical Review, Jul. 2009
South Dakota's new Homestake Research Lab Might Solve a Physics Mystery Physics Today, Jul. 2009
NASA Probe Finds Sea of Cosmic Neutrinos, New Evidence of Early Universe ScienceDaily, Mar. 2008
Neutrino Evidence Confirms Big Bang Predictions Universe Today, Jun. 2005
Neutrinos: Ghosts of Matter Physics World, Jun. 2005

Neutrino Audio / Video

Podcast: Neutrinos: A Cursed Subatomic Particle?  NPR National Public Radio, 3:48
The Search for Neutrinos
  Universe Today Astronomy Cast, 27:30
YouTube Video: Neutrinos  Science Made Fun, 3:34
YouTube Video: Hunting for Neutrinos  CERN, 40:37 Excellent info on CERN CNGS and Gran Sasso Lab

Research Laboratories

Ames National Laboratory  Ames, Iowa
Argonne National Laboratory  Argonne, Illinois
Brookhaven National Lab (BNL)  Upton, New York
CERN European Organization for Nuclear Research  Geneva, Switzerland
CERN Large Hadron Collider  Geneva, Switzerland
CERN Large Hadron Collider - U.S.
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory  Batavi, Illinois
Gran Sasso National Laboratory  Assergi, Italy
KEK High Energy Accelerator Research Organization  Japan
Idaho National Laboratory  Idaho Falls, Idaho
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab  Berkeley, California
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory  Livermore, California
Los Alamos National Laboratory  Los Alamos, New Mexico
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)  Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)  Richland, Washington
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory  Princeton, New Jersey
Sandia National Laboratory  Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake  South Dakota
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center  Stanford, California
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility  Newport News, Virginia

Header image of galaxy NGC 891 by Johannes Schedler at Panther Observatory, Austria