Soudan Lab Experiment to Find Most Precise Speed of Neutrinos in World

By KBJR News 1

November 26, 2012 Updated Nov 26, 2012 at 9:44 PM CST

Soudan, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Some of the most accurate timing tools in the world will be used for an experiment at the Soudan Mine State Park's Underground Lab.

The experiment called, 'Time of Flight' will aim to measure the exact speed of neutrinos, some of the smallest particles of matter in existence.

"A lot of people don't have in depth knowledge of the smallest particles that man knows of," said Lab Manager Jerry Meier, "This is the most accurate timing system for this type of measurement in the world."

It's so accurate because the U.S. Naval Observatory and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) are involved, lending the most precise timing tools in existance.

"They are the experts in the world when it comes to timing," said Meier.

Neutrinos made at the Fermi Lab, near Chicago, will be sent over 700 kilometers where they come through a wall at the lab in Soudan, then hit a series of just under 500 steel detectors, where researchers measure their speed. All that happens in about two milliseconds.

"The neutrinos are so small they'll pass right through us and earth," said Meier.

While the particles are too small to see, special equipment will allow the researchers to record the neutrino's speed. Meier says the experiment's accuracy will be within nanoseconds. He says studying the neutrinos is important because they're the building blocks of other forms of life.

"It's all apart of the overall picture of how the entire universe is put together and what the ground rules are for everything that happens," said Meier, "It is a small part of the puzzle."

The experiment is expected to start this spring. About 90 scientists worldwide will be involved with the experiment.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.