Sanford Underground Research Facility project sparks trip for U.S, United Kingdom partners

The future site of the LBNF/DUNE project in Lead. (KOTA TV)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - One of the largest experiments ever attempted on U.S. soil sparked a trip to the Black Hills for a partnering lab in Chicago and others from the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab in Chicago is partnering with 31 countries to send a beam of particles from its lab to the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead.

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It is part of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment or DUNE.

The goal is to understand the neutrino, which is considered to be the most common particle in the universe.

It will take around 10 years to complete the construction of the facility and equipment, plus another 20 operating the actual experiment. If everything works, it could make history.

"We're interested in whether the neutrino and the anti-neutrino, the antimatter partner, behave the same way. If they do, we're disappointed. If they behave differently, then we'll be planning our trip to Stockholm," said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer.

One of the big backers of the project is the United Kingdom. Country officials are committing $88 million to the experiment.

The British Deputy Consul General said it's just a reminder of the strong ties to science these countries already have.

"It's great that the UK can be part of that. The UK and the U.S. have such a strong partnership going back many years already, so we're natural partners in this as well, so I'm really proud to be here today," said British Deputy Consul General Maria Rennie.

Construction on the DUNE experiment has already started. Plans are set to begin installing the first of four DUNE detector modules in 2024, each weighing 17,000 tons.

They plan to execute this by excavating nearly a million tons of rock underground.

Fermilab expects to be operational in the late 2020s.