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TRIUMF and Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Celebrate Receipt of John C. Polanyi Prize

News Release | For Immediate Release | November 15, 2006


(Vancouver, B.C.) -- The winners of the inaugural $250,000 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award are the Canadian scientists of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) collaboration, who are being honoured for their groundbreaking research on neutrinos which solved a 30-year-old scientific puzzle. TRIUMF Research Scientist Dr. Richard Helmer will be among those so honoured.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) created the $250,000 science and engineering research prize in honour of Canadian scientist Dr. John Polanyi, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. The NSERC John C. Polanyi Award will recognize a recent outstanding advance made by Canadian researchers in any field of the natural sciences or engineering.

SNO operates a giant 10-story tall detector housed in the world's deepest underground laboratory at CVRD-Inco Ltd's Creighton nickel mine near Sudbury, Ontario. The detector consists of the world's largest acrylic vessel, holding 1,000 tonnes of heavy water on loan from the Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. The detector is used to look for neutrinos, tiny subatomic particles that are extremely difficult to detect - in fact, billions of neutrinos pass through people's bodies every second with no effect.

After more than seven years of data taking, the SNO team of research scientists from 14 different universities and research laboratories in Canada (including TRIUMF), the United States, and Great Britain have used the SNO detector to solve a 30-year-old scientific problem: the discrepancy between the number of neutrinos observed, and the number theoretically predicted, to come from the sun. Their results also proved that neutrinos have a tiny mass, where previously they were thought to be massless.

"The entire SNO team feels greatly honoured to have been awarded this prize," said Dr. Helmer, who oversaw the design, fabrication, installation, and commissioning of several key detector components. "I was fortunate to have joined the collaboration at a time when contributions from TRIUMF in its infrastructure role supporting the Canadian Subatomic Physics community were extremely important."

Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for NSERC, added, "The world-class facilities at SNO, coupled with a community of top-notch physicists have made Canada a global leader in the search for answers to some of the deepest mysteries of the universe. The success of these scientists is truly something in which Canadians can take great pride."


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