Australia turns gold mine into physics lab to study dark matter

Protections around the dark matter detector

In addition to the features of the detector, the researchers have added multiple layers of protection to prevent radiation from other sources from reaching the detector. One among them is the underground location of the lab.

Housed in a site that was once a gold mine, the detector cannot be disturbed by cosmic radiation. In addition, the setup is located in a research hall which is 108 feet (33 m) long, 32 feet (10 m) wide, and 40 feet (12.3 m) high. Around 4,700 cubic meters of rock were excavated from the site during the construction of the laboratory, the press release stated.

The detector itself is heavily shielded with around 110 tons (100 tonnes) of steel and polymer shielding.

“For too long, our understanding of dark matter has been in the dark. Our elimination of background radiation will give the chief investigators confidence that any particles they detect are not something else,” said Richard Garrett, Senior Advisor at ANSTO, in the press release.

Apart from understanding dark matter, ANSTO plans to use the facility for sensitive measurement of environmental samples as well as to investigate the development of biological systems in the absence of background radiation.

We have only begun to unravel what dark matter is, and knowing more about its behavior may even be in conflict with our best theories of the universe.