Queen's University, Lively, Ontario
What the facility does

Canada’s deep underground, low radiation, research laboratory enables world-class science.

Areas of expertise

SNOLAB is an international facility for underground science; it is an expansion of the original facilities constructed for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) solar neutrino experiment. The primary focus of the science program includes solar neutrinos, supernova neutrinos, neutrino-less double beta decay and dark matter searches. SNOLAB supports multiple projects covering these research fields, including various aspects of the dark matter interaction parameter space, and both neutrino source and intrinsic physics studies. Projects range in size up to kiloton detectors.

 While particle astrophysics is the principle focus for SNOLAB, there is a growing interest among other scientific fields in exploiting deep underground laboratories and their associated infrastructure. In particular, there have been growing developments in the fields of mining innovation, where SNOLAB supports data analytics for mining innovation, and biology/genetics, where SNOLAB supports projects studying the impact of underground low radiation environments on biological systems.

 The great depth at which SNOLAB is located is required to shield these sensitive detection systems from the ubiquitous cosmic radiations that bombard the surface of the planet. By placing 2km (6000m water equivalent) of rock between the detectors and the surface, these cosmic rays are sufficiently attenuated, by a factor of 50 million down to one cosmic ray muon every day per 4m2, so that the rare and exquisite signals from the science of interest can be separated from the signatures from other backgrounds.

SNOLAB is unique in the world because it is run as a CLASS-2000 Clean Room and low-background facility (including cosmic rays).  The laboratory is located 6800 feet underground in an active mine, which requires immense expertise from the engineering and logistics teams to maintain the cleanliness protocols at all times.

 SNOLAB also has multiple germanium detectors used to measure background radiation level in materials, an ultra pure water plant that produces incredibly clean H2O, a precision radon gas measuring system and a newly comissioned scintillator processing plant.

Research services

High purity germanium gamma-ray counting, Class-2000 clean room space, experimental space with ultra-low levels of ionizing radiation, ultra pure water production,  expertise in constructing clean laboratories and experiments, database with measurements of radioactivity in materials, sensitive radon gas measurements, other low-level analytical services.

Sectors of application
  • Aerospace and satellites
  • Clean technology
  • Defence and security industries
  • Information and communication technologies and media
  • Life sciences, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment
  • Mining, minerals and metals
Specialized labEquipmentFunction
 Ultra pure water plantProduction of highly pure H2O
 Germanium countersEnvironmental monitoring and material screening 
 Scintillator processing plantProduction and maintenance of LAB (linear alkyl benzene) scintillator
 Radon measurement equipmentSensitive radon measurements including emanation from materials and monitoring of various gas volumes
 Materials radioactivity data repositorySNOLAB maintains a database in an online spreadsheet and an online searchable database with radioactivity measurements of various materials. The data is shown in units of mBq/kg or pp(b or m).
 CLASS 2000 clean roomFacility that maintains a cleanliness level of 2000 particles above 0.5mm /ft3 and 2 km of rock overburden (6000 m water equivalent)
 Cryogenic test standMillikelvin, low-background facility for pure and applied research. 10 mK base temperature with 1-week experiment turnaround time. Currently used for quantum device characterization and low mass dark matter searches.
Underground life sciences and analytic chemistry labLife science and chemistry labLocated in the underground clean room, this lab is specialized for analytical chemistry and life science experiments.  
  • Carleton University
  • Laurentian University
  • Queen’s University
  • University of Alberta
  • Université de Montréal
  • Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation
  • MIRARCO Mining Innovation
  • Canadian Light Source
  • Perimeter Institute
  • University of Toronto
Facility virtual tour