SNO scientists win first Polanyi Award
November 15, 2006
Source: Queen's University
Scientists from the Queen’s University-led Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) are the first winners of the prestigious John C. Polanyi Award. Valued at $250,000, the new award will be presented annually by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
"I am very proud of the research accomplishments of the scientists who have so ably taken advantage of this tremendous research tool," said NSERC president Suzanne Fortier, former Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s, in announcing the award. "Given the wonderful example they offer as discoverers par excellence to Canadians everywhere, this award, named for a Canadian Nobel prizewinner, is well deserved."
"Queen’s is proud to have been a founding partner in the SNO experiment, which has answered fundamental questions about the basic laws of physics and the energy generation processes in the sun," says Principal Karen Hitchcock. "It is particularly fitting that one of the most significant Canadian research projects of this decade is being recognized with the inaugural prize named in honour of Nobel-laureate John Polanyi – one of Canada's most recognized and respected scientists."
According to SNO director and member of the Queen’s Physics Department, Art McDonald: "This award is recognition of the excellent work by a great international team of scientists and dedicated laboratory staff members. We have reached the end of this measurement phase using the unique properties of heavy water to detect neutrinos from the sun. In the latest operational phase we have used very sensitive detectors provided by our US colleagues to improve the accuracy of our previous results."
In the world’s deepest underground laboratory at Inco Ltd.’s Creighton nickel mine near Sudbury, Ont., the SNO team from 14 different universities and research laboratories discovered that solar neutrinos – tiny subatomic particles produced in the core of the Sun and considered the basic building blocks of the universe – change into other neutrino types en route to Earth. This discovery, which solved a 30-year scientific conundrum – was ranked the second most important scientific breakthrough in the world in 2001 by the international journal Science.
Other institutions on the SNO team are: 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 University of Pennsylvania, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Washington, Brookhaven National Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin and Louisiana State University. In Europe, SNO partners are Oxford University, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, University of Sussex, and Laboratório de Instrumentação e Física Experimental de Partículas in Lisbon.
Recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, John Polanyi began his groundbreaking work documenting the energy status and movements of molecules at the very moment of chemical reaction. His discoveries dramatically advanced the understanding of the physics of chemical reactions and led to the development of powerful new lasers.
The expansion of the SNO laboratory 2 km underground into an international facility for underground science – SNOLAB – began in 2003 and is on schedule for completion late in 2007. SNOLAB researchers will continue to search for previously undetected components of the dark matter thought to make up about one-quarter of the universe, as well as new properties of neutrinos.
For further information, visit the SNO web site at:
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