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The Mobile Neutrino Lab

The Mobile Neutrino Lab is a self-contained laboratory for the detection and characterization of neutrinos. Neutrinos are a type of subatomic particle that has no electric charge and very little mass (it is at least 500 times lighter than an electron, but it's mass is so small that we don't yet know exactly what it is). They interact only be the weakest nuclear force (literally known as the weak nuclear force) and as a result they can, and usually will, travel all the way through the Earth without being affected.

What's so special about a Mobile Neutrino Lab?

Typically, neutrino detectors are massive, multi-kiloton objects (for examples see the Super Kamiokande, Nova and IceCube detectors). The need for such large detectors is a direct result of the neutrino's tendency to interact only rarely: the bigger your detector the more chances you have to catch one. To detect neutrinos in something small enough to fit in a street-legal vehicle is quite a challenge. The detector inside the Mobile Neutrino Lab, known as the MiniCHANDLER Reactor Neutrino Detector, is specially designed to be sensitive the neutrinos produced in the core of a nuclear reactor. The neutrinos produced in a nuclear reactor's core come free-streaming out and a tiny fraction (less than one in a thousand billion billion) will interact in the detector. Fortunately, a nuclear reactor is such a prolific source of neutrinos that even this tiny fraction gives you about 100 detected neutrons per day. At 80 kg, MiniCHANDLER will be one of the smallest detectors to ever definitively detect neutrinos. A planned ton-scale full CANDLER detector would capture proportionally more neutrinos, and it would still be able to fit in the Mobile Neutrino Lab. Neutrino detector mobility is a very desirable quality that allows it to be deployed for studies of multiple different types of reactors. Additionally, it opens up the possibility of neutrino applications in areas like nuclear non-proliferation, where neutrinos could be used to detect illicit diversions of weapons-grade plutonium.

On June 15, 2017 the Mobile Neutrino Lab was deployed at the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant near Richmond, Virginia. The following short video describes the deployment and explains how the detector is used to detect neutrinos:

Did you see the Mobile Neutrino Lab out on the roads?

let us know where you saw us. We'd love to see your pictures of the Mobile Neutrino Lab out on the roads.

Or you can for the latest updates on the CHANDLER Project.