SNOLAB Virtual Tour

SNOLAB (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) is a world-class research facility for particle physics. It’s unique in that it is situated over 2km underground in an active mine site.

Why is it important for the lab to be situated so deeply underground?

Much of the research done at SNOLAB is about detecting different particles: neutrinos and dark matter particle candidates are two of the top priorities currently. On the surface of the Earth, detectors would be in constant bombardment with all sorts of different particles – alpha particles, beta particles, photons, muons, molecules, just to name a few! You can check out the cloud chamber exhibit to see just how common it is to be experiencing these particle interactions. All of these particle interferences are not desired when attempting to study the rare interactions of dark matter particle or neutrino contacts, so scientists need a lab that can eliminate as much background noise as possible.

The solution to this is to cover the lab with a large insulating layer to ensure that most particles get stopped along the way to the detector, and thus only allowing the neutrino or desired particle to get through. SNOLAB was built 2km underground so that all the earth above the lab acted as a shielding agent against those extra particles, stopping many cosmic rays and background particles. It was built in an active mine site, and to get there you need to put on your mining gear, travel down the mine shaft, and then walk for 1.5km before getting cleaned off and entering the lab site!

In this exhibit, you can take a virtual tour of the lab, exploring different experiments and seeing what the lab looks like. There are many experiments currently at SNOLAB, with others still in development. You can see a list of all the neutrino experiments working and planned here and the experiments working on dark matter here.

The video playing in the corner of the Visitor Centre is taking a tour around SNOLAB while discussing some of the ongoing experiments and what researchers are working to detect. You can also continue with the virtual tour of SNOLAB here on your device and follow along with some of the different experiments on the From Deep Space to Deep Mines boards. You can click on any of the numbered red locations and be shown a 3D photo to explore around. You can also look in the bottom right-hand corner to learn a little bit more about each stop of the virtual tour, or click on any information symbols to learn a fact about some of the technology and engineering behind building this lab.

A bright, transparent circle surrounded by blue light and a very bright light from the spotlight in the bottom right corner. The background seen through the transparent circle appears textured from the PMTs and rope suspension system.

The SNO+ Detector following the scintillator fill, lit up with 2 spotlights. The inner vessel (12m in diameter) is filled with 780 tonnes of ultra-purified Liquid Scintillator (LAB + 2.2g/L PPO), while the outside of the vessel is surrounded by 7,000 tonnes of purified water. With filling operations now completed, the experiment is now in a data taking phase, and the 10,000 sensitive light detectors in the outer vessel will study interactions of neutrinos from nuclear reactors, neutrinos from heat-producing elements from deep in the Earth, from the Sun, and from distant supernovae. (Credit: SNO+ Collaboration)

Teacher Resource - Curriculum Connections

Scientists :
A2.2 – describe the contributions of scientists, including Canadians, to the fields under study

Ontario Grade 11 Physics (SPH3U)

Nuclear isotopes :
D3.9 – identify and describe the structure of common nuclear isotopes (e.g., hydrogen, deuterium, tritium)

Ontario Grade 12 Physics (SPH4U)

Conservation laws and neutrinos :
C3.5 – explain how the laws of conservation of energy and conservation of momentum were used to predict the existence and properties of the neutrino

Ontario Grade 12 Earth and Space Science (SES4U)

Cosmic rays and particle interactions :
C3.9 – describe the major external processes and phenomena that affect Earth (e.g., radiation and particles from the “quiet” and “active” Sun; cosmic rays)