NEWS-G Progress at SNOLAB

On January 28th, 2020, NEWS-G collaborators from Kingston (Queen’s University) and Edmonton (University of Alberta) connected in Sudbury, Ontario to prepare for the installation of the detector at SNOLAB. Components of the detector were cleaned and prepared for the journey underground, installation logistics were reviewed and finalized, and the graduate students, along with Dr. Gilles Gerbier, received important health and safety training to allow them to work in the mine over the coming months.

Below PhD Candidate Marie Vidal narrates photographs taken onsite, beginning with the (above-ground) cleaning process.

Each component of the detector has to be cleaned and re-packaged before being shipped underground. Here you can see small pieces of lead that will later be assembled into the detector’s shield.

The glove box is a very important component of the detector. Just as with everything else, it too needs a thorough cleaning before it can go down into the lab.

Our task force team: on the right (1st table) you can see us cleaning the lead pieces with a solvent and in the background (2nd table) we are drying and wrapping the pieces so that they remain dust-free.

More cleaning and wrapping detector parts in plastic.
Foreground: George Savvidis (PhD student, Queen’s University) Background: Alexis Brossard (Postdoctoral Fellow, Queen’s University)

We received extensive training which taught us how to move safely through the Vale-owned mine in order to access SNOLAB. We also received on-site health and safety and emergency preparedness training within SNOLAB.

On January 29th our mine training began at 6:00 am. After 1.5 hours of above-ground training, we took the ‘cage’ down into the mine. The cage took us 2 km underground, and then we walked over a kilometer, stopping to inspect every safety station, until we reached SNOLAB. The mine is hot, humid and the pressure is 30% higher than at the surface of the Earth, making work underground even more tiring.

Holding their lunches in black bags and awaiting their descent into the mine.
Left to right in yellow: Marie Vidal (PhD Candidate, Queen’s University), Dan Durnford (PhD Student, University of Alberta) and Jean-Marie Coquillat (MA Student, Queen’s University)

Left to right: Alexis Brossard, Dan Durnford, Jean-Marie Coquillat,
Gilles Gerbier, Marie Vidal and George Savvidis

Just steps away from the entrance to SNOLAB. Everyone must shower and change their clothing before they can enter further.

Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in front of the NEWS-G sphere
Left to right: Alexis Brossard, Marie Vidal, Jean-Marie Coquillat, Dan Durnford and George Savvidis

After a tour of some of the other physics experiments at SNOLAB (SuperCDMS/CUTE, SNO+, DEAP) we were able to finally lay eyes on the site where our experiment, NEWS-G, will be constructed.

All in all it was a great and productive trip!

Recent awards received by NEWS-G members

As year 2019 started, three members of the NEWS-G collaboration got granted with different awards for their outstanding research projects.

Quentin Arnaud, former member of the Queen’s university team, and Ioannis Katsioulas, from the IRFU CEA Saclay team, both received a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship. The goal of the Individual Fellowships is to enhance the creative and innovative potential of experienced researchers, wishing to diversify their individual competence in terms of skill acquisition through advanced training, international and intersectoral mobility. The grant is awarded to scientists of different disciplines from around the world and is considered to be among Europe’s most competitive and prestigious awards, aimed at supporting the best and most promising scientists.

Quentin succesfully stood out with the SELENnews-g-collaboration-queen's-university-quentin-arnaudDIS project, with a total score of 95.80%. The goal of this research project is to design, develop and operate a novel direct detection technology called SELENDIS (Single ELEctron Nuclear recoil DIScrimination), to reach sensitivity to low-mass Dark Matter particles down to 100 MeV/c2 with the unique capability of distinguishing nuclear recoils and electronic recoils down to a single electron/hole pair. SELENDIS will consist of an array of two 30-g Si and Ge cryogenic bolometers operated at a high voltage, and will be hosted at IPNL (Lyon, France).

news-g-collaboration-cea-saclay-ioannis-katsioulasIoannis was awarded for the DarkSphere project, aspiring to shine a light on the nature of Dark Matter, with the NEWS-G direct detection experiment that focuses on an as of yet unexplored mass range (0.1 to 10 GeV/c2). Beyond use in fundamental physics research, the detector concepts relevant for DarkSphere have potential for industrial and medical applications, which are also explored. The project has a duration of two years and will be hosted at the University of Birmingham (UK).

Moreover, Konstantinos Nikolopoulos, from the University of Birmingham team, was awarded the 2019 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in the United Kingdom in the area of Physical kostas_awardSciences & Engineering, in recognition for leadership of and personal contributions to a subgroup of approximately 100 physicists in ATLAS at CERN that made key contributions to the first observation of the Higgs boson. Unlike awards that honor scientists late in their careers, the Blavatnik Awards aim to identify and encourage promising young scientists early in their careers, to help them be in a better position to bolster their early research efforts.

NEWS-G @ TUNL : new quenching factor measurements

At the end of January, two members of the Queen’s University team, Philippe and Marie, went to TUNL (Triangle University National Laboratory in North Carolina) to estimate the quenching factor of the gas mixture used in the experiment.

Duke University, Durham, NC

Light Dark Matter and coherent neutrino scattering (CEνNS) detection relies on the interaction with nuclei from the gas mixture, producing nuclear recoils. However, the energy calibration of detectors is done using gammas sources, producing electronic recoils. An electronic recoil and a nuclear recoil of the same energy interact differently in the medium, thus don’t appear to deposit the same amount of energy. Enter the quenching factor, a scale used to convert the nuclear recoil observed into its “real” energy. (more…)

Queen’s university team in France


Members of the NEWS-G team after a visit to Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane (LSM), in France. From left to right: Koby Dering, Carolyne Neron, Philippe Gros, Michel Zampaolo & Michel Gros

The NEWS-G team was at LSM to inspect the copper hemispheres that will form the centre of the NEWS-G project at SNOLAB, and to plan for the first testing of the experiment at LSM early next year (before packing everything up and shipping to Canada). Earlier in the week, the team members visited Fonderie de Gentilly, just outside Paris, to inspect ongoing work. Fonderie de Gentilly is fabricating the 28000 kg spherical lead shield for the SNOLAB project, which will protect the detector from gamma radiation

5th NEWS-G collaboration meeting in Kingston, ON, Canada – November 29-30, 2018

One and a half years after the last gathering in Kingston, Queen’s University was chosen again to host the 5th edition of the NEWS-G collaboration meeting.

More than 30 collaborators from all over the world (Canada, USA, France, Greece, UK) traveled to Kingston, where the group led by Prof. Gilles Gerbier is based.

The collaboration has seen many changes in 2018, and this event gave new members the opportunity to meet the other teams and to visit the NEWS-G facilities at Queen’s university.

During the 2-day meeting, participants presented on a wide variety of topics and participated in discussions on many aspects of the project, especially the upcoming experiment at SNOLAB.

The meeting concluded with a dinner on the shores of the Cataraqui River, and everyone is looking forward to meeting again in 2019!

Outreach events with NEWS-G

NEWS-G has been recently involved in two outreach events hosted by Queen’s University (Kingston, ON, Canada): Dark Matter Day 2018, and IGnite.



On November 10th the McDonald Institute and Queen’s University co-organized the very successful second annual Dark Matter Day. People were invited to hear talks on the first astronomical hints of Dark Matter’s existence, what it might be made of, and how we are trying to find it. This was followed by tours of the Queen’s University Observatory and the McDonald Institute Visitor Centre, exhibits, fun games and activities.


news-g-ignite-logo-2On November 15th, the McDonald Institute – in collaboration with Queen’s University – launched IGnite (Inspiring Generations through research), a new events series which goal is to showcase the breadth of research happening across the university to all audiences (with a special focus on getting young people interested in science and research). This first open and accessible event (one of a three-part series for the 2018-2019 academic year) featured two celebrated Queen’s researchers:  Dr. Ken Clark and Dr. Jacalyn Duffin. In addition to the exciting talks, students and faculty were presenting experiment demonstrations, research posters, and photographs, providing lots of chances to meet and ask questions with the people behind the research.

The Queen’s NEWS-G team actively participated in these two highly successful events by demonstrating our glass sphere detector  and a laser display.

The glass sphere is a stand-alone Dark Matter detector which allows everyone to see what is inside of the vessel. It functions in the same way as our other spherical detectors: the sphere is filled with gas, and when particles pass through the gas, they can bump into gas atoms and free some electrons, which are pulled towards the sensor at the center of the sphere by the electric field created by the high voltage sensor. These drifting electrons induce electrical pulses upon reaching the sensor.

>>> Learn more about the glass sphere detector.


The laser display is a system developed by NEWS-G at Queen’s University to show what is happening inside the detector. The particle interactions we observe are not able to be seen by the naked eye because of the very small energies involved. To demonstrate the invisible physics occurring in our detectors, this system depicts particle interactions in the sphere with a laser show on a wall or poster. The laser illustrates particles colliding with a gas atom, creating small dots which represent the electrons that will drift toward the sensor at the center of the sphere. Upon reaching the sensor, these electrons will give rise to an electric pulse that will also be drawn by the laser as the electrons go down the rod.

>>> Learn more about the laser display