Researchers have now built a novel type of antineutrino detector weighing more than 1,5 tons, based on small scintillating cubes to locate neutrinos stopping in the detector. The whole detector acts as a 3D camera recording neutrino signals with unprecedented resolution.
In the past months the consortium has made a huge effort to assemble the 12 000 parts of the detector and tested the 3500 photon detectors that will “see” the tiny flashes of light produced by neutrinos in the detector.
The consortium also designed and built a calibration robot which provides reference signals to monitor various regions of the detector and its response to neutrinos.
After three years of intense research and development, the neutrino detector has been deployed at the BR2 research reactor at SCK•CEN in Mol. The reactor, which is responsible for the global production of medical radioisotopes used for imaging and cancer therapy, is also an ideal place to carry out fundamental research in the field of elementary particles.
“The BR2 reactor environment is key, it turns out that it is one of the quietest places on earth to do this experiment.” explains Nick Van Remortel, technical coordinator and professor at the University of Antwerp. “It operates at around 60 MW of thermal power and the close stand-off provides ideal conditions for detecting sterile neutrinos.”
SoLid researchers aim to provide a first answer to the question within a year and to make significant progress in the quest to find sterile neutrinos, a goal chased by many international consortia. “We are proud to contribute, thanks to our BR2 facility – which is unique in this context – and to our knowledge and know-how, to the success of this amazing project”, claims Steven Van Dyck, BR2 manager. “This project shows that our research facilities and know-how can compete with the best research institutes in the world.”