Through one of its companies, Equatorial Sistemas, the Group is part of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (Dune) through an agreement with Unicamp’s Physics Institute “Gleb Wataghin” and, in collaboration with Fermilab-EUA, will develop unprecedented equipment for purification of liquid argon, essential for the success of the project
The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (Dune) is one of today’s largest international scientific projects and aims to discover new properties of neutrinos, elementary particles with no mass that travels at a speed very close to the speed of This is the largest study ever done on the subject in the world and will investigate the structure of the matter in depth and provide answers on important issues related to the formation of the universe. Scholars around the planet estimate that neutrinos will be part of major discoveries in physics in the next 10 or 20 years.
According to researchers, the Earth is regularly traversed by trillions of neutrinos: produced in the early times of the universe, from extragalactic sources, generated inside the stars of the Milky Way, originated in the Sun, resulting from the collision of cosmic rays with the Earth’s atmosphere. And even though it is everywhere, it is probably the most mysterious particle in the universe.
“Neutrinos are extremely small particles, and it is difficult to understand how they transform. The importance of this project goes far beyond discovering why we live in a universe dominated by matter, why we are here, but it will generate discoveries for countless other areas, such as health, for example. Imagine if we can control particles that pass through matter, the benefits that this will bring to the world in several aspects are enormous”, comments Dr. Cesar Ghizoni, CEO of Equatorial.
The DUNE project is based at Fermilab (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory), a laboratory specialized in high-energy particle physics linked to the United States Department of Energy, and has the participation of researchers from more than 100 countries, with Brazil as one of the signatories.
The great technological highlight of the project is that its detection system will be based on the use of liquid argon. And to be successful, the photo detection system (Dune Photon Detection System) is a fundamental part, as it will be through the scintillation produced by the passage of neutrinos through giant liquid argon tanks that researchers will obtain essential information about the formation of the universe and the structure of the material world.
The DUNE will have two large detectors installed in the United States and positioned along the beam’s propagation line. The first one will be very close to the source, in Fermilab itself, in the state of Illinois, and the second one, with much larger proportions, far below ground level, 1.300 kilometers from the source, in the state of South Dakota. There will be no need to build any tunnels, because due to the fact that the neutrinos have no charge, they propagate in a straight line, without suffering any kind of deviation. They travel at a speed close to the speed of light and can traverse any type of material along the way. Therefore, to reach the second detector, it is enough that the beam is rigorously pointed in the correct direction.
Ahead of this research in Brazil, and with support from the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (FAPESP), is the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), under the coordination of physicists Ettore Segreto and Pascoal JG Pagliuso, professors at the Physics Gleb Wataghin Institute. Prof. Dr. Pascoal Pagliuso leads the team that investigates and develops the processes related to the entire liquid argon purification system of the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LNBF) while Prof. Dr. Ettore Segreto is the leader of the Dune Photon Detection System, one of the five international consortia that are part of the mega experiment.
One of the projects carried out by researchers in the State of São Paulo refers to the light detection system called Arapuca, a device to collect light signals at very low frequency emitted by Dune detectors.
And this is where the great scientific and engineering challenge of Brazilian participants in this project begins. To maintain argon in liquid state, the temperature must be lowered and then the argon purified, as the impurities can affect the detection of particles generated in the liquid argon tanks and turn the experiment unfeasible.
Brazil, under the leadership of Unicamp (IFGW), is studying the purification, filtering and regeneration of liquid argon for neutrino detectors. “Initial filtration is known, but purification at the level required requires research and development of new materials for filters and fluid dynamics studies”, explain Ghizoni and Pagliuso.
The project will be divided into two phases:
- Include R&D activities, preliminary studies, tests, prototype construction for large-scale purification, regeneration and argon condensation optimization (eg fluid dynamics studies, for the circulation of LAr with two pumps, case study for installation of a full-scale argon purification system with the difficulties imposed by the cave entrance and available cranes and other difficulties of the underground installation, tests of different purification elements and temperature monitoring inside the purifier). Compliance with Phase 1 will be systematically assessed every 3 months during its execution.
- After positive evaluations in all Phase 1 reviews by both Unicamp and Fermilab parties, Phase 2 will include engineering, design, construction, testing, shipping and delivery of the following components:
- LAr purification system for detectors # 1, # 2.
- GAr purification system for detectors # 1, # 2.
- Regeneration System for detectors # 1, # 2.
- LAr circulation system for detectors # 1, # 2.
- Argon condensation system for detectors # 2.
Equatorial, from the Akaer Group, received support for the development of research from the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation, through the FAPESP Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE), and participates in the study with Unicamp, providing all engineering support during the first phase of the project.
“It is at the intersection between cutting-edge science and the necessary instrumentation to observe new phenomena in nature that an important development vector is inserted. For FAPESP, supporting this project means not only deepening knowledge about the universe, but allowing companies to develop new technologies and potentially also new markets “, said Luiz Eugênio Mello, scientific director of FAPESP about the support.
The scope of work in this first phase is the elaboration of the basic concept of the system for the optimization of purification, regeneration and condensation of argon on a large scale, as well as in the elaboration of the industrialization and installation plan at the experiment site.
“During Phase 1, we are committed to seeking innovation in the process of filtering and circulating Liquid Agon in LNBF’s 17 kTon tanks. We already have proposals for new media that can significantly increase the efficiency of the process and the chance of success of the experiment. The success of Phase 1 will allow the entire cryogenic infrastructure of LBNF liquid argon to be produced in Brazil ”, comments Pagliuso.
“For Brazil, being part of DUNE is extremely important, as it takes us to another level of technological development and allows the Brazilian scientific community to participate in a large-scale project. For Akaer Group, it means entering a scientific development study. We will take a leap in quality in various technologies that involve low temperatures, high reliability and complexity, all on a huge scale. We will enter another area of activity that would not be possible to invest anytime soon if it were not for this project ”, concludes the CEO of Equatorial.