Ground broken to build new world-class astroparticle research facility in S. Korea

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2019-04-12 15:23 Updated : 2019-04-12 15:23
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[Courtesy of the Institute for Basic Science]


SEOUL -- Ground was broken to build a second sound-proof underground lab in a remote mountain area for noise-free experiments to explain the origin and structure of the universe by detecting dark matter and weigh the of neutrinos. Construction will be completed in 2020.

The ceremony to build a new astroparticle research facility (ARF) was held Friday at an iron mine in Jeongseon County, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Seoul. The lab will be located 1,100 meters below the surface in an area covering 2,000 square meters just below the summit of Mount Yemi. 

The lab run by a research team at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) will be installed with detectors with ultra-low noise to reduce background cosmic rays to search for extremely rare events such as neutrinoless double beta decays and dark matter. The success of experiments relies on reducing background interference.

"We are building this underground facility with the desire of space particle researchers. The ARF in Jeongseon will be another step toward space," IBS president Kim Doo-chul said in a statement.

Currently, the research team is conducting experiments in a lab 700m below the surface in Yangyang. Researchers want a new facility with advanced equipment to create a world-class research environment because the lab in Yangyang has reached its space limit.

Scientists believe the universe consists of 26.8 percent dark matter and 68.3 percent ark energy. Signals from dark matter and neutrinos are very difficult to detect because they manifest into detectable particles via the weak interaction. Given the very faint signals, sources of background noise must be reduced as much as possible.

Neutrinos are massive but their absolute masses and nature have not been determined. A measurement of neutrinos' masses requires highly sensitive equipment capable of detecting their extremely tiny signals.