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Sudbury Neutrino Observatory wins first NSERC Polanyi award

Ottawa, ON – The winners of the inaugural $250,000 NSERC John C Polanyi Award are the scientists at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), who are being honoured for their groundbreaking research on neutrinos, says Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) president, Suzanne Fortier.

SNO operates a $100-million neutrino detector housed in the worlds deepest underground laboratory at Incos Creighton nickel mine near Sudbury. The heart of this detector is a 10-storey cavern excavated by Inco miners. Located there is the worlds largest acrylic vessel, holding 1,000 tonnes of heavy water on loan from Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) and worth an additional $330 million.

The SNO team gained international recognition by proving that neutrinos released in the core of the sun change their flavour or type as they travel to earth. About two-thirds of them change into two other types of neutrinos, not visible to earlier detectors used at other laboratories.

Finding these missing neutrinos solved a 30-year-old scientific problem: the discrepancy between the number of neutrinos observed and the previous predictions of theoretical models for the sun. The SNO measurements also proved that the most basic laws of physics are incomplete. SNO research data also has led to a more complete description of nature at the subatomic level.

The SNO team being honoured includes scientists from Queen’s University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, AECL, TRIUMF, and the National Research Council. As well, SNO has a number of international partners. The American partners include the University of Pennsylvania, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Washington, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Texas at Austin and Louisiana State University. In Europe, SNO partners include Oxford University, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the University of Sussex, and Laboratorio de Instrumentacao e Fsica Experimental de Partculas in Lisbon.

“This award is a recognition of the excellent work by a great international team of scientists and dedicated laboratory staff members,” said Art McDonald, SNO director.