March is National Engineering Month, Canada’s biggest celebration of engineering. 2020 is a particularly important year as it marks 100 years of Engineering for six of Canada’s provincial professional engineering bodies. This month is a time to celebrate the contributions of engineers as well as highlight engineering careers for the next generation.
SNOLAB is home to an expansive team of engineers to support the science underway in our facility. We’re proud to employ a diverse team of structural, mechanical, systems, and process engineers. Our teams also rely on the work of certified engineering technologists and engineers in training.
The underground facility at SNOLAB presents unique challenges to engineering: everything in the underground lab must come down through the cage, an industrial elevator, and make a 1.5 km journey through the drift. This places restrictions on both size and mass. Most experiments are shipped in pieces and assembled inside the lab. That brings up another challenge: SNOLAB is a cleanroom facility, meaning that any construction needs to be carefully planned and executed to avoid dust particulates from building up in the lab air.
All materials in the lab have been carefully selected to reduce background radiation for the experiments. Background radiation can mimic the signals we are looking for, such as dark matter or neutrino interactions. Everything from the paint on the floors to the very materials the experiments are made of were chosen with cleanliness and minimizing radioactivity in mind.
Not only do the experiments need to be shielded from radiation, they also need to be protected from seismic activity. Being located 2 km underground in an active mine, the lab environment is subjected to seismic events from rock bursts and the use of explosives in mining activities. The experiment collaborations and our engineering teams go to great lengths to mitigate seismicity in these sensitive detectors.
All month long, we’re highlighting the contributions of SNOLAB engineers via our #WorkWithMeWednesday initiative. We will be releasing a video each week through the month of March featuring engineers working on various projects at SNOLAB from the new lab expansion, to lab 3D modelling, our new diesel generators for the SuperCDMS experiment, and project managers with engineering backgrounds. Follow along on Twitter @SNOLABscience and on Facebook at @SNOLABscience.