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Science goes underground, by Susana Cebrian (UNIZAR)


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In 1985, the Nuclear and Astroparticle Physics research group from the University of Zaragoza, led by Prof. Angel Morales, set off the Laboratorio Subterráneo de Canfranc in the Central Pyrenees (Spain). This Laboratory consisted of a main hall of about 120 m² and two halls of about 18 m². The scientific programme of the Laboratory along those years, in which more than 50 researchers belonging to 12 institutions from 8 different countries took part, was basically focused on: a) Search for double beta decay with germanium (IGEX), b) Search for Dark Matter with scintillators (NAI-32 and ANAIS), semiconductors (IGEX-DM) and bolometers (ROSEBUD), and c) R&D program for the development of ultralow background detectors (AMBAR).
More recently, the construction of a road tunnel between Spain and France, parallel to the dismissed railway one, provided a unique opportunity.

A. Morales, strong of the success of two decades of research and of his determination, convinced the Spanish authorities of building a new, larger laboratory, with fully international standards and all the necessary underground services. The depth is 850 m under Mount Tobazo, The facility was completed and inaugurated in 2006. However, one year later signs of rock instabilities started to appear and the laboratory was closed. A complete revision of the original project was performed by the Saragossa University and the rock support structures necessary to guarantee the safety of the personnel and of the properties were installed.
In order to increase safety margin, a dedicated structure of optical fibres continuously monitors rock stability.


The new laboratory is run by a Consortium between the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, the Government of Aragon and the University of Zaragoza. The underground facilities have been completed and delivered by the University of Zaragoza to the Consortium on 30 June 2010. The "old" underground infrastructures are being integrated in the LSC according to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zaragoza University (total area 1560 m², total volume 10.500 m³).
The experimental activities are supported by a dedicated building at Canfranc Estación with mechanical workshop, specialized laboratories, offices for the LSC personnel and users, headquarters, conference, exhibition and meeting rooms, available since January 2011.
Seven experiments have been approved (ANAIS, and ArDM on dark matter, BiPo, NEXT and SuperK-GD on neutrinos, GEODYN on geodynamics and GOLLUM on biology) and more are under discussion (onr on dicrect dark matter research with CLYC scintillators and a second one on ultra-sensitive forcé sensor to investigate short-range interactions). In addition, an extensión Project for the underground site for a nuclear astrophysics facility, CUNA is under study. The scientific users are 254 from 19 Countries.






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