Boulby Underground Laboratory is a multi-disciplinary deep underground science facility operated by the UK’s Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) working in partnership with ICL UK. Boulby is one of just a handful of facilities world-wide suitable for hosting ultra-low background and deep underground science projects. Boulby is a special place for science. It is ‘a quiet place in the Universe’, where studies can be carried out almost entirely free of interference from natural background radiation, in particular from natural ‘cosmic rays’ which perpetually bombard the Earth’s surface.
Like other activities at ICL UK, the laboratory sits at an impressive 1,100m under the Earth’s surface and hosts a number of world-leading science projects.
Studies underway at Boulby range from the search for Dark Matter in the Universe, to studies of geology and geophysics, climate, the environment, life in extreme environments on Earth and beyond. With a small onsite-staff, the facility supports the work of over 70 scientists from 20 universities and research institutes in the UK and overseas.
The Boulby underground Lab is the UK’s national deep underground science facility and one of just a few such facilities in the world. The hosted at Boulby has been growing recently and this year, thanks to £1.8M investment from STFC and ongoing support from ICL UK, a new underground laboratory is being built to enable Boulby to host current and future science for the decades to come. This year the new underground laboratory will be completed and ready for use.
The search for Dark Matter is one of the most important and well-known areas of study carried out in the low-background environment at Boulby. Dark Matter is the name given to the missing 85% of the universe – thought to be made up of as-yet undetected ‘sub-atomic’ particles existing throughout space.
Boulby has hosted experiments searching for proof of these Dark Matter particles for over two decades, including the world-renowned NAIAD, DRIFT and ZEPLIN projects. Now at Boulby, the underground laboratory now hosts two current Dark Matter search experiments: DRIFT-II and DM-Ice. The facility also provides ultra-low background material screening capability for other studies, including the upcoming most-sensitive Dark Matter detector in the world: LUX-ZEPLIN.
In 2014, funding was granted by the UK government body, STFC, to build a new underground laboratory over one kilometre below the Earth’s surface. This laboratory now almost complete and in function, and has replaced the old laboratory. The new laboratory houses all experiments currently in practice at ICL Boulby, as well as making room for more.