Project money backs Stawell lab
World-leading research into dark matter in Stawell will receive a $35-million boost.
The money, pledged by the Federal Government, will help establish a new ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics at the University of Melbourne.
The centre, led by professor Elisabetta Barberio, will use the in-development Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory for its research.
The laboratory will be more than a kilometre below ground at Stawell Gold Mine and aid researchers as they investigate dark matter – an asyet unobserved phenomenon thought to account for most of the matter
in the universe. It will be the first laboratory of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Professor Barberio said the government’s support would enable researchers to complete world-first research into the nature of dark matter.
“This will make us very competitive with the rest of the world,” she said.
“Being able to conduct these experiments in the southern hemisphere for the first time will allow us to eliminate seasonal variables and maximise our chances of discovering dark matter.”
Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said work at the Stawell laboratory would have enormous implications for the expansion of human knowledge.
“We can’t see dark matter, but we know it exists and unlocking its secrets has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe,” he said.
“This project involves the intersection of particle, nuclear and quantum physics to pursue the discovery of dark-matter particles.
“The discovery of dark matter will create a completely new branch of physics and astronomy.
“It is the equivalent of discovering a parallel universe.”
The laboratory will be built with joint funding from state and federal governments.
The State Government announced $5-million for the construction of the facility in July after the Federal Government also allocated $5-million earlier in the year.
Northern Grampians Shire Council mayor Kevin Erwin said funding for the construction of the laboratory and the researchers it would house was a great step forward.
He thanked both state and federal governments for their support of the project.
“Scientists around the world have been trying to discover what dark matter is, and this will be the only particle physics lab in the southern hemisphere, so it’s a great story for Stawell and our region,” he said.
“Mr Tehan has been a wonderful advocate for this exciting project, as has the State Government, so the project has certainly enjoyed bipartisan support which has been fantastic to see.”
Cr Erwin said the council was keen to maximise opportunities in education and tourism the project would present.
He said there was plenty of interest surrounding the laboratory since the funding announcements, and the council would work with the community to maximise its benefits.
He said the laboratory could also be used for other purposes, including biological and cancer research, geosciences and engineering activities.