Ceramic Industry News / Advanced Ceramics

Alfred University Researcher Tests Glasses for Particle Physics Experiment

September 6, 2011
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S.K. Sundaram, Ph.D., will evaluate the mechanical properties of glasses that could be critical to the success of the collaborative project being undertaken by the national laboratories.

S.K. Sundaram, Ph.D., Inamori professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the Inamori School of Engineering at Alfred University, has been chosen to evaluate the glasses that will be used in a “huge particle physics experiment” being undertaken by the Brookhaven (BNL) and Fermi National Accelerator (FNAL) laboratories. Sundaram will evaluate the mechanical properties of glasses that could be critical to the success of the collaborative project being undertaken by the national laboratories.

Two vendors have supplied glasses to the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., proposing the glasses be used to house neutrino detectors inside a device called a photomultiplier tube for what is called the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE). Neutrinos are subatomic particles that are similar in size to electrons, but that have no charge. They travel over long distances close to the speed of light, and are very difficult to detect because they can pass through solid materials without affecting them.

Neutrinos from earth can make it to the moon in about a second, Sundaram said. Researchers are interested in them because they appear to play a more complicated role in the composition of matter than previously thought. Physicists are proposing to send a high-intensity muon (one of the three types) neutrino beam from FNAL in Weston, Ill., through more than 1000 km of earth to detectors at the Homestake Mine in Lead, S.D. The detectors, encased in glass, will be placed in the mineshaft, which will then be flooded with high-purity water. When the neutrinos collide with water molecules, they emit a faint glow (called Chenokov radiation), which is recognized by the detectors, Sundaram said.

“The detectors will be far underground for a long duration, so the glass needs to be able to withstand the pressure of the water filling the mine shaft,” said Matthew Hall, director of the Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) at Alfred, which is supporting the project in conjunction with Brookhaven. “Should one of the photon-multiplier tubes implode-as one did during a similar experiment conducted by the Japanese in 2001-it could destroy an entire array of glass tubes.”

For more information, visit http://engineering.alfred.edu.

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