Underground research laboratories
Roggenthen, William Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, South Dakota.
- Mines and tunnels
- Geologic disposal
- Particle accelerators
- Particle detectors
- Other research activities
- Future neutrino laboratories
- Additional Readings
Underground research laboratories include a wide range of facilities for scientific and engineering research at depths ranging from 15 m (50 ft) to more than 2 km (1.25 miles) below the surface. Scientists and engineers labor at these depths to gain access to an environment that both shelters their experiments from the constant shower of cosmic radiation encountered at the surface and provides a window into the geological and biological processes that operate there. The reasons for underground laboratories fall into three general categories. (1) The depths of the Earth are explored to produce the minerals that lie within, to excavate relatively shallow tunnels for road and underground construction, or to dispose of hazardous substances. (2) Modern particle accelerators necessary for investigating subatomic structure require long paths to accelerate charged particles, and in the process produce ionizing radiation that can effectively be shielded by relatively shallow burial. (3) A new type of physics experiment requires a location that has reduced levels of cosmic radiation to detect interactions that are very infrequent, very weak, or both. Some of the more recent research projects involve the search for neutrinos, one of the more elusive of the subatomic particles. Therefore, the underground provides shielding from cosmogenic backgrounds due to the overlying rock or soil.
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