Completion of the biggest neutrino detector in the world at the South Pole
An international research group have newly completed the construction of IceCube, the biggest neutrino detector in the world. The detector is buried deep into the ice at the South Pole. This marks the fruition of a decade of planning, development and extensive testing, including tests carried out by researchers at the universities of both Stockholm and Uppsala.
The one cubic kilometre-large detector will measure the flow of neutrinos, particles almost devoid of mass, through the inland ice of the South Pole. Researchers have spent seven years drilling 86 holes in the ice with a unique hot-water drill, developed in house, that can reach drilling depths of 2500 metres in less than 48 hours. Sixty light sensors have been placed in each hole. These are sensitive to the weak light emitted when particles from neutrino reactions travel through the dark but crystal clear ice two kilometres under the research station.
It is estimated that tens of billions of neutrinos pass through our bodies each second of the day. Almost all pass straight through without effect and it is believed that we can only expect a neutrino collision to occur in the body once or twice in a lifetime. This low probability of reaction is one reason why the neutrino detector has to be so large; IceCube can register tens of thousands of neutrinos each year from reactions in the Earth's atmosphere.
IceCube is an international project centred around the University of Wisconsin in the USA, but has participants from around the globe. The total costs of the project have been approximately SEK 2 thousand million.
July 5, 2011
Page editor: Paul Parker
Source: External Relations Office