Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
  • Hero image

Boon for Stawell dark matter research teams

The only deep-underground physics laboratory in the Southern Hemisphere is getting a new ‘toy’ that cools items to temperatures 300 times colder than outer space. 

The new facility, the Cryogenic Experimental Laboratory for Low-background Australian Research, also known as CELLAR, is a boon for research based at the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, SUPL – attracting international and multidisciplinary collaborations, and advancing the growth of Australia’s high-tech industry. 

Dr Glen Harris of the University of Queensland and ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, EQUS, said the centrepiece of the new facility was a high-tech cooling system called a dilution refrigerator.  

“Deep underground laboratories like SUPL are rare, with only a handful worldwide, and the number with high-tech cryogenic systems like CELLAR is even lower,” he said.

Article continues below

Dr Ben McAllister, a CELLAR researcher from Swinburne University of Technology, EQUS and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics, said the key to CELLAR was the extreme shielding it provided from background noise.

“Our regular world is very noisy. Everything at any temperature is constantly emitting light, as you may know if you’ve ever seen images from infrared or thermal cameras, and we’re being constantly bombarded with particles from space, called cosmic rays,” he said.

“But in physics and technology we’re often trying to detect individual particles, such as photons, meaning particles of light, or electrons, which is very difficult if not impossible unless you can shield against these noisy background sources. With CELLAR, we reduce thermal noise in our experiments by cooling them in the dilution fridge to temperatures as low as 10 millikelvin, around 300 times colder than outer space. And being situated a kilometre underground in the Stawell Gold Mine means CELLAR is extremely well shielded from cosmic noise, because the particles from space that bombard us on the surface all day are absorbed by a kilometre of rock.”

CELLAR will become a reality thanks to funding awarded to a group of researchers as part the Australia Research Council Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities funding scheme.

The $860,000 grant, combined with $305,000 in contributions from the University of Queensland, Swinburne, University of Western Australia and University of Melbourne, will facilitate the purchase of two dilution fridges – one to be installed at SUPL and the other at ground level at Swinburne next year.

The second fridge will enable comparative research between the surface and deep underground, and allow researchers to prototype experiments before deploying them in SUPL.

Professor Elisabetta Barberio, another CELLAR researcher, of the University of Melbourne and the director of CDM, said as an open-access facility with unique capabilities, the team expected CELLAR to attract strong international collaborations with multidisciplinary teams.  

“CELLAR will develop new technologies that will lead to a deeper understanding of the universe and its fundamental constituents, produce key advances in emerging quantum devices, and open the door to the discovery of new physics processes,” she said. 

The entire November 22, 2023 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!