Neutrinos: From Tokai to Kamioka to the Grid

Wed 2nd December 2009

Throwing sub atomic particles from one side of Japan to the other in to a cavern filled with 50,000 tons of pure water seems a little bit science fiction but that is the plan for the T2K experiment in Japan. An international collaboration the project has many UK members, they start taking data in January 2010 and will be using the grid to transfer and analyse their datasets.

To be more scientifically accurate T2K will be studying neutrino oscillations by generating a beam of neutrinos at the J-PARC facility in Tokai and directing it towards the Super-Kamiokande detector near the city of Hida. The SuperK detector is actually 50,000 tons of pure water but it does also have 11,000 light sensitive devices around it which detect the light given off by the neutrinos as they interact with the water.

Inside the Super-Kamiokande detector

The neutrinos’ journey is almost 300 kilometres and the team hope to be able to observe the change (oscillation) of muon neutrinos into electron neutrinos. It is hoped that understanding this process will go some way in explaining the creation of matter after the big bang.

While not generating the petabytes of data that the LHC will T2K will still have a large amount of data and a very distributed set of researchers. Dr Ben Still at Queen Mary, University of London is one of the people working on bringing T2K to the grid and for him it is the best solution for the project “With collaborators spread across 3 continents the Grid seems the natural platform and most efficient way to globally distribute and analyse data”.

Having only started looking at the grid in late August/September this year Ben has been able to make T2K an recognised international Virtual Organisation on the grid and started running test jobs on the system. The plan is that by December they will be shifting data from SuperK to their Tier 1 facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK and TRIUMF in Canada and then the users will start using the grid to crunch their numbers.

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