Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory

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Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory
Established Planned, stalled
Research type Research laboratory
Field of research
Physics, dark matter
Location Stawell, Victoria, Australia
37°04′S 142°49′E / 37.07°S 142.81°E / -37.07; 142.81 (Stawell Gold Mine)
Affiliations University of Melbourne
the Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics
the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
University of Adelaide
Italian National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics.

The Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL) is a proposed laboratory 1 km deep in the Stawell Goldmine, located in Stawell, Shire of Northern Grampians, Victoria, Australia. Together with the planned Agua Negra Deep Experiment Site (ANDES) at the Agua Negra Pass, it is one of just two underground particle physics laboratories being considered in the Southern Hemisphere. It collaborates closely with the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy,[1] and shall conduct research into dark matter.[2]

Although planned for construction in 2017, it has not been built and its future is unclear.[3]

General information[edit]

SUPL is located at a depth of 1,025 metres (3,363 ft), providing approximately 2900 metre water equivalent shielding against cosmic rays.[4]:3 As a decline (ramp) mine, cars and trucks can be driven to the laboratory site.[5] The laboratory will consist of a main tunnel approximately 10 metres high and 10 metres wide (33×33 ft), divided into 25 metres (80 ft) of clean room space for experiments, and 15 metres (50 ft) of "dirty" loading area.[4]:4–5 A side tunnel 5 m wide and 20 m long (15×65 ft) houses physical plant and personnel facilities.[5][4]:4–5

The first phase of the project received $1.75 million funding in the 2015 Australian federal budget. With matching funding from Victoria,[6] construction started 2016[7] and was expected to be complete in 2017.[5] However, the project was stalled by the shutdown of the Stawell gold mine, which had ceased active mining in 2014. In December 2016, it went into a "care and maintenance" state, which disrupted laboratory construction plans made assuming the mine was open. As of December 2017, construction of the physics lab had not been completed, and there is no schedule for construction to restart.[3]

Its Southern Hemisphere location has bearing on the possible differential detection of the putative WIMP-wind. Northern Hemisphere instruments are showing hints of a June "bump" of possible dark matter hits,[8] which is expected given the galaxy's rotation, but it is hard to be sure that it is not a false signal due to some subtle seasonal environmental effect. A Southern Hemisphere location, with opposite seasons, would be valuable confirmation. Secondly, the sundry particles (apparently from the constellation Cygnus)[9][10] would have travelled through the Earth itself before reaching SUPL's instruments.[11] Finally, its Southern Hemisphere location also makes it potentially very sensitive to daily variation effects which would be a smoking-gun for self-interacting dark matter or dark matter with a significant stopping rate.[12][13]

Inasmuch as Neutrino experiments do not benefit in the same way from a Southern Hemisphere location, and IceCube is already extant, it is unlikely that any neutrino detectors will be housed at SUPL.


The first experiment planned for SUPL is SABRE[4]:4[14] (Sodium-iodide with Active Background REjection), based on 50 kg of thallium-doped sodium iodide.[15][16] An improved version of the DAMA/LIBRA detector[17][5] already operating at LNGS, two copies will be built:[15] one at LNGS and one at SUPL. Consistent results between the two would be very strong evidence.


  1. ^ Coughlan, Matt (24 September 2014). "Stawell particle physics laboratory - scientists to speak on Tuesday". Wimmera Mail-Times. 
  2. ^ "Government Digs Deep With Plan For Stawell's Future" (Press release). Premier of Victoria. 13 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Piovesan, Anthony (7 December 2017). "Future uncertain for Stawell's underground physics lab". Ararat Advertiser. Retrieved 7 March 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d Urquijo, Phillip (15 September 2015). Searching for Dark Matter at the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (PDF). Heavy Ion Acceleration Symposium 2016. EPJ Web of Conferences. 123 (04002). Canberra. pp. 1–7. arXiv:1605.03299Freely accessible. doi:10.1051/epjconf/201612304002Freely accessible.  Page 4 gives the latitude of the laboratory as 37°03′S = 37.05°S, but it is not clear if this is accurate for the laboratory proper, or is an approximation based on the latitude of the town of Stawell.
  5. ^ a b c d Froborg, Francis (20 July 2016). SABRE: WIMP Modulation Detection in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Identification of Dark Matter 2016. Sheffield. p. 11. 
  6. ^ "Funding Go Ahead For Stawell Physics Lab" (Press release). Victoria Minister for Regional Development. 20 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "Work begins 1km underground at dark matter physics lab site" (Press release). Northern Grampians Shire Council. 5 May 2016. The drilling which commenced on 28 April will extract a 50 metre long core from the main cavern site. 
  8. ^ Jamieson, Valerie (3 May 2011). "Second experiment hints at seasonal dark matter signal". New Scientist. 
  9. ^ Monroe, Jocelyn; Battat, James (2009). "Winds of Change in the Hunt for Dark Matter" (PDF). MIT Physics Annual. 
  10. ^ Billard, J.; Mayet, F.; Grignon, C.; Santos, D. (January 2011). "Directional detection of Dark Matter with MIMAC: WIMP identification and track reconstruction". Journal of Physics Conference Series. 309 (1): 012015. arXiv:1101.2750Freely accessible. doi:10.1088/1742-6596/309/1/012015. 
  11. ^ Slezak, Michael (18 July 2014). "Panning for dark matter in an Australian gold mine". New Scientist. Retrieved 2015-05-20. 
  12. ^ Kouvaris, C.; Shoemaker, I. (2014). "Daily modulation as a smoking gun of dark matter with significant stopping rate". Physical Review D. 90: 095011. arXiv:1405.1729Freely accessible. Bibcode:2014PhRvD..90i5011K. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.90.095011. 
  13. ^ Foot, R.; Vagnozzi, S. (2015). "Diurnal modulation signal from dissipative hidden sector dark matter". Physics Letters B. 748: 61–66. arXiv:1412.0762Freely accessible [hep-ph]. Bibcode:2015PhLB..748...61F. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2015.06.063Freely accessible. 
  14. ^ Barberio, Elisabetta (2 November 2015). "Direct Dark Matter Detection in Australia (colloquium abstract)". University of Sydney School of Physics. Retrieved 2016-01-17. 
  15. ^ a b Froborg, Francis (9 September 2015). SABRE: WIMP Modulation Detection in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere (PDF). Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics. 
  16. ^ Barberio, Elisabetta (16 September 2015). "How we plan to bring dark matter to light". The Conversation. 
  17. ^ Roberts, Glenn Jr. (12 October 2015). "Australia's first dark matter experiment". Symmetry Magazine. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°04′S 142°49′E / 37.07°S 142.81°E / -37.07; 142.81 (Stawell Gold Mine)