CHIPS deploys first prototype detector module

Physicist Jenny Thomas of University College London inspects the CHIPS-M module just before it is lowered into a former mine pit located in the NuMI neutrino beam in northern Minnesota. Photo: Jerry Meier, University of Minnesota

On Aug. 1, the CHIPS collaboration deployed its first prototype detector module 60 meters underwater in a former iron mine in northern Minnesota. The detector is positioned in Fermilab’s NuMI beamline.

The goal of CHIPS, which stands for Cherenkov Detector in mine Pits, is to develop low-cost methods to detect neutrinos, fundamental particles that experience only weak interactions with ordinary matter. The CHIPS collaboration expects to significantly lower per ton costs by purifying existing water in an existing mine pit in an existing neutrino beam.

CHIPS commenced with the submission of an R&D proposal to the Fermilab Physics Advisory Committee in 2013 and is one of a number of neutrino detector R&D projects currently being conducted by the U.S. and European particle physics communities.

The CHIPS-M detector, as it’s called, is designed to operate through the Minnesota winter and will likely collect data for about a year, informing designs for much larger detectors using the CHIPS concept.

Marvin Marshak, University of Minnesota