Huge underground lab | Medavia

Huge underground lab

Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso

This might put your old school science classroom to shame – rare pictures reveal the awesome scale of the world’s largest underground physics laboratory.

The Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, more than a kilometre below the Gran Sasso d’Italia mountain in central Italy, covers more than 6,000 square metres and is comprised of three huge halls connected with winding service tunnels.

The site was established in 1989 to search for fundamental particles which would be untraceable on the surface.

Today, with a total underground volume of 180,000 metres cubed, it is recognised as the largest underground particle physics laboratory in the world.

Alistair Philip Wiper, 34, ventured under the mountain to capture the fascinating scenes which are usually only seen by Europe’s top scientists.

He said: “To get to the facility you have to travel through an ordinary mountain tunnel, then take a secret turnoff which leads you to a small blast door, manned by a security guard.

“Inside you find a complex network of tunnels. Most of the experiments take place in three massive chambers which are packed with equipment.”

Mr Wiper, who has spent the last three years photographing large-scale industrial sites across the world, said the scale of the laboratory took him by surprise.

He said: “It was pretty exciting, it felt like you were somewhere top secret, with an ominous atmosphere like something out of science fiction.”

One of the tasks of the laboratory is to aid in the discovery of dark matter, which scientists theorise forms up to 85 per cent of the matter of the universe.

Mr Wiper said: “I can’t pretend to fully understand the science of what they are doing, I’m just amazed that they are attempting it at all. Without places like this we wouldn’t stand a hope of understanding why the world works.

“The scientists are all working towards a common goal to contribute to the expansion of human knowledge.”

Mr Wiper has also travelled from his home in Copenhagen to take similar photos of the large hadron collider at CERN in Switzerland.

Mr Wiper said: “The two institutions work with each other regularly and they’ve even managed to beam particles from CERN over to LNGS in the past.”

“I’ve been to CERN a couple of times and it has a similar atmosphere. They are both places where impossibly clever people run experiments which the rest of us would struggle to get our heads around.”

More high resolution pictures are available on request. To discuss rates for using pictures and copy, contact news editor Tom Knight on 07815 004413 or


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