- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Community Foundation is investing $2 million in an experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility at Lead.

The investment made at the request of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority will help researchers at the federally supported lab in their search for dark matter, an elusive substance that scientists believe makes up about one-fourth of the universe.

Scientists are fairly certain that dark matter exists, but they don’t know what it’s made of or how it interacts with ordinary matter. It’s considered vital to scientific theories on how the universe is expanding and how galaxies move and interact.

“The foundation’s investment in this project will help the U.S. keep a science-leadership role in the global competition to detect dark matter,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the Science and Technology Authority.

The Sanford lab is nearly a mile underground in the former Homestake Gold Mine. Researchers there are studying many complex subjects, such as nuclear reactions within stars.

The South Dakota Community Foundation is a public nonprofit created in 1987 to connect donors and charitable nonprofits around the state. The $2 million investment is the largest single-project funding in the foundation’s 28-year history. Unlike grants the foundation typically gives to nonprofits, the investment will eventually be repaid.

The money will be used to buy a material known as Xenon that’s necessary for the dark matter research. Once the experiment is complete in 2026, the Xenon will be sold on the open market with the proceeds going to the foundation.

“(The) investment in a future experiment will benefit the lab and the state of South Dakota for years to come, both economically and educationally,” said Casey Peterson, that authority’s board chairman.

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