The Roman neutrino detector
Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 16-19
Scientists at a facility at Gran Sasso, Italy, have found themselves at odds with archaeologists. Although lead is used as a radiation shield, mined samples contain the beta-emitting isotope lead-210 which has a half-life of 22 years. Lead produced in Roman times has a lower proportion of lead-210 than more recently processed metal and hence is an ideal material to shield sensitive neutrino detectors. The Gran Sasso researchers acquired 120 lead ingots recovered from a Roman shipwreck that occurred between 80 and 50 BCE off the coast of Sardinia. The physicists’ use of the Roman lead sparked anger from archaeologists. The archaeologists claimed that the lead had been salvaged without consultation with archaeological experts and the use of ancient artefacts for research purposes raised questions about balancing the usefulness of physical research against heritage preservation.