Further funding for underground dark matter lab


Additional funding of $5 million has been announced for the continuation of the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL). The University of Adelaide is a founding partner of the project to construct a national underground facility to study dark matter.

The Victorian Government is providing the further funding for the project which is a collaboration between six university partners – led by the University of Melbourne alongside the University of Adelaide, Swinburne University of Technology, the Australian National University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

The project involves the construction of a general-purpose national laboratory 1025 meters underground at the Stawell Gold Mine in Western Victoria, to carry out ground-breaking research to detect dark matter using the SABRE experiment. The lab will be 30 metres long, 10 metres wide and 10 metres high.

“The University of Adelaide is proud to be one of the founding partners in the establishment of SUPL as a national ultra-low background facility available for research from geophysics to cancer research,” says Professor Tony Williams, Associate Director of the University of Adelaide’s Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter.

“SUPL provides researchers with an essential platform for their pursuit of the discovery of dark matter and serves a pressing international need for a Southern Hemisphere underground facility.”

Understanding the particle nature of dark matter, which is thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe and about a quarter of its total energy density, is cutting-edge physics and the most important open question in physics today. Its discovery will have the same importance and impact as the discoveries of the Higgs Boson and gravitational waves. SUPL is essential to that quest.

SUPL is not just an underground physics laboratory. Its deep-underground and ultra-low radioactivity environment, and the spin-off technologies from its ultra-sensitive detectors are also of interest to nuclear science (ANSTO), defence (DST Group – especially in homeland security), geology and geophysics, engineering, biology and cancer research, and astrobiology (exobiology) to name a few.

Image: (left to right) Minister Jaclyn Symes (Victorian Minister for Regional Development), Mr Troy Cole (General Manager, Stawell Gold Mines), Professor Elisabetta Barberio (project leader, University of Melbourne)

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