Research, teaching and outreach in Physics at UW–Madison
First field season for IceCube Upgrade ongoing at the South Pole
Over the past two months, a team of IceCube drill engineers have completed an impressive amount of work during the first of three consecutive field seasons for the IceCube Upgrade. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and international collaborators.
The goal of the project is to drill seven holes in 2025/2026 and deploy seven more closely spaced and more densely instrumented strings of sensors in the central part of the array, which will improve IceCube’s sensitivity to low energies. Having a productive first field season both sets the Upgrade project up for success and trains the new generation of drillers at the South Pole.
The majority of the team’s engineers come from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL), where equipment is fabricated and shipped to the South Pole. Additional drill engineers hail from Sweden, New Zealand, and for the first time, Thailand.
“This year’s drill team is a group of 17 talented professionals who have completed an enormous amount of work,” says Kurt Studt, drill engineer at PSL and the on-ice drill manager for the Upgrade. “We’ve overcome many difficult challenges while dealing with the extreme environment at the South Pole, including temperatures as low as -35 ⁰F and windchills below -60 ⁰F.”
The Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment collaboration – which made a precise measurement of an important neutrino property eight years ago, setting the stage for a new round of experiments and discoveries about these hard-to-study particles – has finished taking data. Though the experiment is formally shutting down, the collaboration will continue to analyze its complete dataset to improve upon the precision of findings based on earlier measurements.
The detectors for the Daya Bay experiment were built at UW–Madison by the Physical Sciences Laboratory, and detailed in a 2012 news release.
Says PSL’s Jeff Cherwinka, U.S. chief project engineer for Daya Bay:
The University of Wisconsin Physics Department and the Physical Sciences Lab were very involved in the design, fabrication and installation of the anti-neutrino detectors for the Daya Bay Experiment. It was a great opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to participate in an important scientific measurement, while learning about another country and culture. There were many trips and man years of effort in China by UW physicists, engineers and technicians to construct the experiment and many more for operations and data taking. This international collaboration took a lot of effort, and in the end produced great results.
The chief experimentalist at UW–Madison was Karsten Heeger who has since left for Yale. At present, Prof. Baha Balantekin is the only one remaining at UW–Madison in the Daya Bay Collaboration.