LUX ZEPLIN

LZ Logo

LZ logo
(Credit: The LZ Dark Matter Experiment)

LUX ZEPLIN (LZ)

For decades, astrophysical probes have indicated that dark matter dominates the dynamics and matter content of galaxies. Currently, there is ample gravitational evidence for the existence of dark matter, but to understand dark matter fully, scientists need to directly observe their interactions in laboratories on Earth. This will allow scientists to understand the nature of particles that constitute dark matter.

Based at Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), USA, where LUX resides, LZ will contain a detector that can hold 7 tonnes of active liquid xenon. Containing such a large volume gives the detector huge sensitivity and allows LZ to analyse weakly interacting massive particles.  LZ aims to be over 100 times more sensitive than LUX and to make the first statistically significant and definitive discovery of Dark Matter.

LZ is named from the merger of two dark matter programmes: the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment at SURF and ZonEd Proportional scintillation in LIquid Noble gases (ZEPLIN) experiment at Boulby Underground Laboratory, UK.

Quick Facts about LUX ZEPLIN

Size

7-tonne (active) dual-phase xenon detector, plus outer veto detectors

Depth

1,480m below the ground but 114m above sea level

Design

An extremely sensitive liquid xenon time projection chamber housed in a water shield containing 70,000 gallons of purified water.

International Collaboration

Over 250 scientists and engineers in 38 institutes in the US, UK, Portugal, South Korea and Russia

UK Collaboration

Approximately 50 scientists in 9 institutes

Science Challenges

Gamma-ray screening at Boulby Underground Laboratory (Credit LZ Collaboration)

Gamma-ray screening at Boulby Underground Laboratory. Screening materials is essential for material selection and detector assembly, allowing the LZ project to meet background noise specifications.
(Credit: LZ Collaboration)

The LZ research programme is key to achieving STFC’s science challenges and will help to answer the following questions:

  • How did the universe begin and how is it evolving?
  • What are the fundamental constituents and fabric of the universe and how do they interact?
  • What is the nature of Dark Matter?
  • What are the roles of Dark Matter and Dark Energy?
  • What are the fundamental particles?
  • How do galaxies evolve?
  • What is the physics of the early Universe?

UK Involvement

The UK contribution is funded by STFC and includes the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Imperial College London, Royal Holloway, University College London and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Following a 2.5 year R&D phase, the project moved into its construction phase in 2015 for approximately 3-5 years. A 4-6 year exploitation phase will follow the construction phase. UK scientists occupy significant leadership roles in the international LZ construction project, with co-leadership of 3 of the 11 Work Packages, and major contributions across nearly all areas. The UK holds responsibilities for delivery of the LZ titanium cryostat, the UK’s quota of phototubes, low-background assays for material selection and background modelling, one of two project Data Centres, internal sensors, and contributions to calibration systems.

The LZ detector (Credit The LZ Dark Matter Experiment)

The LZ detector
(Credit: The LZ Dark Matter Experiment)

Impact

The discovery of a new particle that constitutes the dark matter in our galaxy would be a major milestone in our understanding of how the universe works. Discoveries in this area of fundamental physics will change our understanding of the universe, will attract students to STEM disciplines, and capture the imagination of the public.

Contributing to LZ and dark matter searches gives UK researchers access to experimentation at the forefront of this area. Skills and leadership developed through the project also deliver long-term benefits for UK science through major roles in dark matter experiments and beyond.

The expertise being developed to design and build the titanium cryostat can be extended to other scientific research, most notably research into neutrinos. Furthermore, the requirement of advanced welding techniques, to reduce radioactivity, has created and strengthened industrial links within the UK.

The LZ team participate regularly in outreach events including media appearances and public talks. The activities of LZ also extend beyond the generally interested public, to engagement with UK-based artists, and exposure to entrepreneurs and businesses in the research, innovation, and technology sectors. This provides valuable opportunity for fostering new links with the potential for exploitation of research in unexpected ways.

Please see the LZ-UK website for further information.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000