Underground ‘genius lab’ one step closer to finding dark matter

An experiment to search for dark matter, which will take place in a gold mine under the Victorian town of Stawell, has just completed the first stage of its plans.

Stage one of the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL) was officially opened today. Although there’s no detector or other equipment yet in the new space, the once cave like structure now looks like a shiny new laboratory, equipped with working showers and air-conditioning.

The lab, located in the active Stawell Gold Mine, is 1-kilometre underground and includes a research hall 33 metres long, 10 metres wide and 12.3 metres high.

“We know there is much more matter in the universe than we can see,” says Professor Elisabetta Barberio from the University of Melbourne.

“With the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, we have the tools and location to detect this dark matter. Proving the existence of dark matter will help us understand its nature and forever change how we see the universe.”

Read more: Genius lair: Australia’s dark matter experiment underfoot

The lab has now been handed over to the SUPL team who will start bringing in equipment in the next month.

This may take a while, as the detector is housed in tonnes of steel that need to be brought down the long, winding tunnel in the mine itself.

The experiment has been marred by delays. The original project was set to be finished in the mid-2010s, and even last year there were hopes of getting it finished by the end of 2021.

However, with the lab finally complete, it hopefully won’t be too long until they start trying to detect the mysterious particles which seem to make up our Universe.

In Issue 94 of Cosmos Magazine, writer Jacinta Bowler dived into the science, history and future of SUPL. That piece has recently been announced as part of the Best Australian Science Writing 2022 anthology. In celebration of stage one being completed, you can currently read that article on the site.

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