NOvA is a second generation, accelerator based, long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, and a flagship experiment for Fermilab's Intensity Frontier program. NOvA is specifically designed to resolve the outstanding questions in neutrino mixing and the structure of the neutrino sector, and features a unique "totally active" detector design that singles it out as one of the most sensitivity and versatile neutrinos experiments in the world.
Over the last decade, since the discovery of finite, non-zero neutrino mass through their oscillations over the solar and atmospheric distance and energy scales— the first evidence of physics beyond the standard model — much has been learned about elusive world of neutrinos. Yet much remains to be learned. NOvA is poised to make seminal measurements of neutrino properties that will answer questions of whether neutrinos are a source for the Matter/Anti-matter asymmetry of the universe.
The NOvA experiments consists of two independent detectors separated by 810 km. At Fermilab is the Near Detector, which counts the number of neutrinos produced by the Fermilab accelerator. The Far Detector is sited in northern Minnesota near the US/Canadian border, and is 14 mrad away from the primary beam axis, in what is referred to as the "off-axis" configuration. This choice of site location and baseline is what allows NOvA to perform precisions measurements of &theta13 and &theta23. The Far Detector, at a massive 15,000 tons, will be the largest liquid scintillator calorimeter ever build, indeed the largest plastic structure ever built, and has been designed to search for electron neutrino appearance in the Fermilab muon neutrino beam.
Construction of the NOvA experiment started in May of 2009 and the first set of physics data is expected from the Near Detector in earl 2011. The construction of the Far Detector will continue in parallel with the Near Detector operation and will become fully operational in 2013 at its full mass of 15,000 tons.
Virginia's role on NOvAThe University of Virginia has taken on a leading in the design and implementation of the NOvA experiment. The Virginia group working on NOvA is Headed by Professor Craig Dukes, and is the primary focus of a dedicated team of full time physicists, graduate students, and undergraduate students. The Virginia group also has talented electrical engineering and technical resources which work closely with the researchers to solve many of the engineering challenges that the experiment presents. The Virginia group also played an important role in the Data Acquisition Group, with Dr. Andrew Norman (who has taken a position at Fermilab) the project manager for the Data Acquisition (DAQ) System Integration project.
The Virginia group is responsible for all aspects of two critical components of the NOvA detectors: the Power Distribution System that provides power to all of the detector electronics, and the Detector Controls and Monitoring Systems that runs and monitors the detectors. Two of each system need to be fabricated: one for the Near Detector and one for the Far Detector. The Near Detector systems have been installed and commissioned and are running smoothly. We are receiving about $2.5M from the U.S. Department of Energy to carry out this work.
Virginia's lead role in PDSThe NOvA Power Distribution System (PDS) provide all of the power to the 357,120 channels of electronics in the Far Detector, including 11,160 front-end boards, thermoelectric coolers, and avalanche photo-diodes, and 180 Data Concentrator Modules. Included in the system are 180 Power Distribution Boxes designed by the Virginia group, 60 low-voltage, high-current power supplies, 2 multi-channel high-voltage power supplies, 16 relay racks, 23.5 km of cables, and 3.5 km of cable trays. The physical size and unique topology of the NOvA detector, when combined with the power demands and cooling requirements of the front end electronics, make the PDS and electronics infrastructure design a formidable challenge which requires significant electrical and mechanical design and engineering.
Virginia's lead role in DCSThe Virginia group is responsible for the Detector Controls and Monitoring (DCS) systems. Our group's expertise with data acquisition systems, combined with our experience in modern computing have allowed us to develop a robust platform capable of handing the continuous readout, buffering, and real time data processing that is required by the NOvA physics program. The DCS systems that Virginia is responsible for provide the full hardware/software interfaces and data readout for the experiment and are the fundamental window to for the physicist to control monitor the NOvA detectors.