A Phun Physics Experiment - the CUORE Project

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An international research team is looking to explore the Nutrino. We have detected them and have some knowledge about them but not that much. Not anywhere near as much as we know about the other particles. Enter the CUORE Project -- The Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events. One of the issues in looking for such a ghostly particle is that you need to minimize any other background radiation. The team is doing this by locating the Observatory 11,200 feet under Gran Sasso mountain in Italy. The Team is also using lead as shielding. Not just any lead, this lead - from Nature News:
Roman ingots to shield particle detector
Around four tonnes of ancient Roman lead was yesterday transferred from a museum on the Italian island of Sardinia to the country's national particle physics laboratory at Gran Sasso on the mainland. Once destined to become water pipes, coins or ammunition for Roman soldiers' slingshots, the metal will instead form part of a cutting-edge experiment to nail down the mass of neutrinos.

The 120 lead ingots, each weighing about 33 kilograms, come from a larger load recovered 20 years ago from a Roman shipwreck, the remains of a vessel that sank between 80 B.C. and 50 B.C. off the coast of Sardinia. As a testimony to the extent of ancient Rome's manufacturing and trading capacities, the ingots are of great value to archaeologists, who have been preserving and studying them at the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari, southern Sardinia. What makes the ingots equally valuable to physicists is the fact that over the past 2,000 years their lead has almost completely lost its natural radioactivity. It is therefore the perfect material with which to shield the CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) detector, which Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) is building at the Gran Sasso laboratory.
A bit more:
This is where the shipwrecked lead comes into the picture. Lead is, in principle, a shield against radiation, but freshly mined lead is itself slightly radioactive because it contains an unstable isotope, lead-210. "We could never use it for our experiment, which is exactly about keeping background radioactivity to a minimum," says Ettore Fiorini, a physicist at the University of Milan-Bicocca and coordinator of the CUORE experiment. After it is extracted from the ground, however, lead-210 decays into more stable isotopes, with the concentration of the radioactive isotope halving every 22 years. The lead in the Roman ingots has now lost almost all traces of its radioactivity.
Very cool...

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