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ANDES Project: The underground laboratory that will transform Chile into an international scientific reference

With an investment of 40 million dollars, this experimental space seeks to consolidate itself as a world-class research focus, geared especially to the search for traces of neutrinos and dark matter.

With an investment of 40 million dollars, this experimental space seeks to consolidate itself as a world-class research focus, geared especially to the search for traces of neutrinos and dark matter.

A true boom around experimental physics in Latin America is what could happen with the construction of the Agua Negra Deep Experiment Site. The project, which has the scientific cooperation of the Latin American Consortium of Underground Experiments (CLES), will take advantage of the construction of the Agua Negra border crossing, located between Chile (Coquimbo) and Argentina (San Juan), to install its laboratory.

This project includes a series of tunnels where the laboratory will be located at an approximate depth of 1.6 kilometers below the rocky areas of the Andes Mountain Range, thus becoming one of the deepest experimental sites worldwide. The investment, close to 40 million dollars, aims to perform experiments of extreme sensitivity, which cannot be done on the surface of the earth because they would be confused with cosmic rays.

But why is it so important to do this research? Imagine that every day and every second, billions of neutrinos, also called ghost particles, go through every inch of our body (skin and muscles included) without hurting us. And is that one of the main characteristics of these elementary particles lies precisely in that it is very difficult for them to interact with the material, making their tracking especially complicated, since they are insensitive to electromagnetic interactions.

Neutrinos interact with atoms only through the so-called weak nuclear interaction, which occurs very rarely, but is substantial, since it can transform one type of particle into another.

Experimental space

For the director of the Department of Physics of the USM and researcher of the Scientific Center of Valparaíso (CCTVal), Doctor Claudio Dib, who is also the Coordinator in Chile of the ANDES Project, the study of neutrinos is a very topical topic because in In recent decades it has been possible to develop the instrumentation to detect them better and better. "The neutrinos that reach the earth come from the sun, from inside the stars and even from the center of the Earth, and since their interaction is weak, practically nothing stops them, and they are the only particles that give us direct information of these inaccessible regions of the universe. So, thanks to this laboratory, we could know we what the center of the earth is made of, or how are the processes inside the sun that produce its energy, among many other things", he says.

"In addition, from the theoretical point of view, the neutrinos also have much to say: the current theory of matter at the most fundamental level, called 'the Standard Model', explains with impressive precision almost all phenomena observed in the subatomic world, But it leaves open some big questions, such as the origin of dark matter and the unbalance of matter versus antimatter in the Universe, apparently neutrinos are the only particles that could give us clues as to how to get to those answers", adds the academic.

For Dr. Dib, the construction of this laboratory would mean the possibility of more scientific collaborations between organisms worldwide and the universities of our continent, which incidentally includes technology transfer: "Experiments of this kind need international help and collaboration. For us as CCTVal, we are collaborating with CERN building Muones detectors for the ATLAS experiment, this would be a perfect opportunity for, depending on the expertise, we can build part of the detectors we need for research in ANDES and start to excite scientists to participate in top-level experiments in the country".

Escrito por Super User 15 · Jun · 2018