Professor Takaaki Kajita from the University of Tokyo in Japan, a 2015 Nobel Prize winner in physics, has visited the recently upgraded and expanded underground science laboratory at Boulby potash mine in east Cleveland.
The visit (June 2nd) came as the Professor was on a tour of the UK to meet scientists in his area of work. He was keen to see the Boulby mine, the new underground science facilities and discuss the various science projects underway and planned at the site.
The Boulby underground Laboratory, one of he world’s few deep underground science facilities, is funded and operated by the government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and operates with permission and support of the Boulby mine operators ICL-UK. It has operated at Boulby for over 20 years, hosting projects ranging from astrophysics (search for Dark Matter – the missing mass in the universe) to studies of geology, geophysics, climate, the environment, life in extreme environs in Earth and beyond. The laboratory has recently been expanded and upgraded to enable it to support the growing interest in access to the deep underground environment from UK and international scientists.
After an official greeting from mine CEO Marc Kirsten, Prof. Kajita then went underground to the new lab with the local science team. There he saw the various studies underway including the ‘DRIFT’ dark matter telescope, the ‘SELLR’ life in low background study, the ‘BUGS’ gamma spectroscopy suite and more.
He was then shown the Outside Experimentation Area being built in a salt roadway just outside the new laboratory. This is to facilitate the growing interest in using Boulby for studies of life in extreme environments on Earth and other planets; including the testing of equipment to be used on future Mars rover missions.
Afterwards Prof. Kajita said he had enjoyed the visit and was impressed with the new laboratory. He also expressed a wish for closer collaboration between the UK and Japan in scientific research.
“It was a great success and we were excited and inspired to be able to show Prof. Kajita the work taking place here,” said Prof. Sean Paling, Director and senior scientist at the Boulby Underground Laboratory. “There is a lot of work going on right here on the edge of the North York moors, with plenty more that needs to be done.”