Queen's University

Queen's physicists receive $10.5M to determine the building blocks of our universe

 
2009-06-23

Queen’s University physicists Mark Boulay and Mark Chen have received over $10.5 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) toward their underground research projects. The studies will take place at the international Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB) facility for underground particle astrophysics research.

Professor Boulay’s research will hunt for “dark matter” particles. Even though these particles have not yet been directly observed, they are thought to account for most of the matter in the universe.

“Physicists now know that most of the matter in our universe is dark; we can account for only about five per cent of our universe with our current understanding of fundamental particles,” says Professor Boulay. “This new funding will place Canada at the leading edge of this research by allowing us to perform a dark matter particle search that is about 500 times more sensitive than existing experiments. Theoretical models predict this sensitivity will allow a good potential for discovery, thus opening a new window on our universe.”

Professor Chen’s research is an extension of the original Sudbury Neutrino Observatory project, called SNO+. His project researches neutrinos—tiny subatomic particles produced in the core of the sun and considered the basic building blocks of the universe—using them to study different reactions in the sun and also radioactive decay in the earth.

"We are thrilled by this new CFI award because it will enable us to build new experiments in SNOLAB that will address fundamental and important questions in science,” says Professor Mark Chen. “SNO+ also aims to make the first observation of a very rare nuclear decay, related to a unique property of the neutrino, by dissolving an isotope of neodymium in the detector, the observation of which would inform our understanding of the evolution of the early universe."

The projects are funded through the New Initiatives Fund, which supports new areas of research and technology development. In total, seven Queen's University research projects received $42.7 million from CFI.

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Contacts: Jeff Drake, 613.533.2877 jeff.drake@queensu.ca or Nancy Dorrance, 613.533.2869 nancy.dorrance@queensu.ca, Queen’s News and Media Service.
 

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