The current version of the instrument is located at the University of Washington in Seattle, where Pettus did his postdoctoral studies and initially became involved with Project 8. Just as Pettus himself transitioned from the West Coast to Bloomington, he hopes that the instrument will do the same.
“The fact that there are so many cool neutrino experiments going on here is one of the reasons I came to IU,” said Pettus. “We’ve got one of the best neutrino programs in the country,” he said, one more than 75 years in the making.
IU has been recognized as a hub for neutrino research since 1946, when professors Emil Konopinski and Lawrence Marvin Langer returned to Indiana after their work with J. Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project. The pair studied neutrinos at IU, even helping to develop the theoretical and experimental techniques that instruments like KATRIN used to measure neutrino mass.
Today, a total of three labs led by six professors at IU focus their research on neutrinos, each with a different angle. “On any given day you might be able to find all these world experts on the second floor of Swain West - it’s an incredible place to do neutrino research,” said Department Chair Messier.
Conveniently, the Bloomington campus has not only the specialists to support Project 8’s apparatus, but also the space.
From 1976 to 2010, the Multidisciplinary Engineering and Sciences Hall housed the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility, a major nuclear research space that Langer helped to design. “As we think about, what does this apparatus look like 1010 larger, it actually fits pretty well in the cyclotron facility,” said Pettus. His group plans to evaluate the dimensions and conditions of the space to see if the apparatus could find a new home in Bloomington in the coming years.
“It’s really great doing this work at a place like Indiana with deep historical connections to the field,” said Pettus. “It feels ‘right’ to bring it full circle, and hopefully this chapter can actually complete the circle and get a definite answer.”