University of Guelph scientists are part of a team of Canadian and international researchers that won one of the world’s most lucrative science awards.
The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) is one of five experiments named winners of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics on Sunday.
The honour comes a month after Art McDonald, a physics professor at Queen’s University who directed SNO in the 1990s, won the Nobel Prize.
McDonald and the SNO team will split the $3-million prize with four other international experimental collaborations in Japan and China studying neutrinos.
Neutrinos are among nature’s most elusive particles. The SNO lab detected their presence and showed, contrary to what many scientists believed, that these particles have mass.
SNO began in 1984 with 16 collaborators – including U of G – and has grown to include more than 270 scientists.
Guelph faculty, researchers and students have been involved in the work for which the prize was awarded.
The U of G team consisted of professors emeriti Jimmy Law, Robin Ollerhead, and Bernhard Nickel; retired professor John Simpson; researchers Pillalamarr Jagam, Ian Lawson, Diane Reitzner and Jian Xiong Wang; and Guelph co-op physics students Rob Hanson and Jeff Karn.
SNO is a unique neutrino telescope that is the size of a 10-storey building. It’s located two kilometres beneath the earth in a nickel mine near Sudbury, making it the world’s deepest underground laboratory.
It’s the only facility in the world that can detect neutrinos accurately, thanks to the giant sphere filled with ultra-pure heavy water that contains heavy hydrogen. Neutrinos passing through break up the deuterium into a neutron and a proton, which is crucial to the measurement process.
The Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics was founded by Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist Yuri Milner.
It was presented during a ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Centre in California that was broadcast live on the National Geographic Channel. It will be rebroadcast Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. on the Fox network.