Super-Kamiokande: Neutrino Detector

Super-Kamiokande or Super-K for short, is a neutrino observatory in the city of Hida, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. The observatory was designed to search for proton decay, study solar and atmospheric neutrinos, and keep watch for supernovas in the Milky Way Galaxy.


Here’s the image above with the scale set so you can see the person inside. This facility is massive. This is one workplace where you don’t want to be last to leave for the day.

If you need any proof that real life is stranger than fiction then this place is it. Super-K is run by The Institute for Cosmic Ray Research (ICRR) which sounds like a place from a Fantastic Four storyline.

It’s good to see that no matter how hi-tech it gets things are still done with standard office chairs.

Even after reading the Wikipedia entry and browsing the official site we’re still not sure what it actually does. But that doesn’t stop us from admiring the work that has gone into building such an amazing place. There is a 20 minute video explaining what it does but it’s only available in Japanese.

The Super-K is located 1,000 m (3,281 ft) underground in Kamioka Mining and Smelting Co.’s Mozumi Mine in Hida’s Kamioka area. It consists of a cylindrical stainless steel tank that is 41.4 m (135.8 ft) tall and 39.3 m (128.9 ft) in diameter holding 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water. Mounted on the superstructure are 11,146 photomultiplier tubes (PMT) 20 in (50.8 cm) in diameter. That’s a lot of ultrapure water which it’s self is a hassle to distill down to that grade.

The reason the detector needs to be so deep underground is to block any neutrino’s from the sun interfering with the experiments.

Super-K is set to detect neutrino events. These are then recorded via the 11,000 PMT’s and fed into a computer resulting in a huge amount of data for the scientists to sort through. When visualized through a computer they create quite stunning pieces of art. These would look great as an animated screensaver.

We’ve taken a few from this extensive gallery. You’ll need a PHD, be be friends with Stephen Hawking, to actually understand what any of the pretty colors mean.


The only question we want to know is can you swim in it when it’s filled with water?

While we’ve featured the Super-K there are currently 6 other Neutrino detectors operating around the world including Canada and the USA with another 6 currently in construction. Building these Neutrino detectors is big business.

A smaller but just as interesting Neutrino detector is the Sadbury Sno located in Ontario, Canada. I’m guessing the designer was a huge Star Wars fan.


Related Links
Super-Kamiokande Official Site
There is an extensive photo gallery of the facility and it’s construction available here.

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