In attempts to understand the universe, associate professor Norm Buchanan looks into one of the most abundant particles of matter.
Buchanan studies high energy particle physics in the area of neutrinos. Neutrinos are sister particles to electrons that do not have a charge. Neutrinos can only be detected when they interact with matter, which they hardly do, because of their lack of charge.
Buchanan is one of about a dozen, national laboratory scientists that have received part of an $8.5 million dollar grant to do computational research on high-energy particle physics. This computational research consists of taking experimental data and fitting it into different theoretical models.
To detect these neutrinos, thousands upon thousands of neutrinos are shot a mile underground at detectors filled with liquid argon at -200 degrees Celsius.
“We need to shoot trillions upon trillions of neutrinos at any type of object for one of them to interact,” Buchanan said.
The detectors are 810 kilometers to 113 kilometers away from the neutrino source. The detectors and neutrino sources are a part of two international projects: the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment and the Neutrinos from the Main Injector Off Axis Electron-Neutrino Appearance (NOvA).
“DUNE is one of the biggest neutrino projects that has ever existed,” Buchanan said. “There are four detectors in South Dakota a mile underground that are as big as the physics building and hold…