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Home / Science / The US will fund another supersensitive and expensive experiment with dark matter

The US will fund another supersensitive and expensive experiment with dark matter



A theoretical WIMP (in white) hits an atom and sends blue vibrations through the crystal.
Illustration: Greg Stewart (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The US Department of Energy will still fund the most sensitive search for theoretical dark matter particles. It will sit for over a mile underground in a nickel mine near the Canadian city of Sudbury, according to a press release.

The proposed supercritogenic dark matter study on SNOLAB or SuperCDMS SNOLAB would be a detector held close to absolute zero that would be sensitive enough to detect the elusive dark matter with silicon and germanium atoms. It joins a long line of other experiments looking for "weakly interacting massive particles" or WIMPs, the most popular candidate for dark matter particles.

Everywhere in the universe there is evidence of unexplained mass. Galaxies rotate too fast around their edges, and the seemingly empty regions next to galaxy clusters distort the shape of the space around them as if there were things there. The most popular solution to this puzzle is WIMPs, particles that interact too weakly with regular matter to be detected by our telescopes or other observation devices.

SuperCDMS SNOLAB is the next iteration of the CDMS experiment, located deep in the Sudan mine in Minnesota. The construction of these experiments in deep mines serves to eliminate possible sources of external noise, mainly cosmic radiation from outer space. Like its predecessor, SuperCDMS holds silicon and germanium crystals at -459.6 ° F, almost absolute zero. A passing, weakly interacting dark matter particle from space would create vibrations and electrons through the medium, like a pebble falling into super-difficult water.

If you know something about dark matter, it will seem familiar to you. The currently most sensitive experiment, XENON, works on a similar principle, except that it measures emitted light particles and electrons instead of vibrations. It lies deep in an Italian mountain. The LUX-ZEPPELIN (LZ) works in a similar design and is a retrofit mine in South Dakota.

Scientists from these collaborations are enthusiastic about the competition. SuperCDMS will "look over another mass range with a different sensitivity, and in a sense it's a whole new field," said Bob Jacobsen, LZ scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But he warned, results are not just around the corner – the experiment will not start until the early 2020s to get results. And it will not be cheap. The Department of Energy will contribute $ 19 million, the National Science Foundation $ 12 million, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation $ 3 million.

The hunt for dark matter continues – and scientists continue to hunt until they are sure that WIMPs are not the answer.

[SLAC]


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