The search for dark matter intensifies


Three projects and three research institutions have joined forces to once and for all detect, identify, and measure one of the most elusive and pervasive aspects of our universe, dark matter (not to be confused with dark energy, see image below for clarity). According to physicists, dark matter accounts for nearly 84.5% of the total matter in the universe, and coupled with dark energy, accounts for 95.1% of the total content in the universe.



Although the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has failed to produce visible evidence of dark matter, scientists and engineers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have announced stepped up efforts and investment in building a new detector called the SuperCDMS-SNOLAB, designed to create the ideal conditions needed to isolate and identify dark matter particles.


Funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the SuperCDMS-SNOLAB detector “will be about twenty times more massive and one hundred times more sensitive. To reduce background noise from other particles, the detector will operate a mile underground while it searches for WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles).” WIMPs are the difficult-to-detect particles dark matter is thought to be made of.

The LZ Dark Matter Experiment

Part of an international effort that has been dubbed the Generation 2 Dark Matter Experiments, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab will also be collaborating with the European based LUX-Zeplin (LZ) experiment. The LZ is also working on building a new detector that will be more sensitive to identifying WIMPs. Harry Nelson, physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara says, “When completed, the LZ experiment will be the world’s most sensitive experiment for WIMPs over a large range of WIMP masses.”


The LZ experiment will be unique in its ability to identify “WIMPs with a wide range of masses, including those much heavier than any particle the Large Hadron Collider at CERN could produce.


Another experiment ramping up efforts to discover dark matter is called the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment, ADMX-Gen2, located at the University of Washington, Seattle. Axions are also particles thought to be associated with dark matter, and are even harder to detect than WIMPs. The ADMX-Gen2 experiments plan to identify axions by running them through a strong magnetic field that will convert axion particles into microwave photons for better detection.


Together, these three projects hope to identify dark matter at its most granular level, the discovery of which will no doubt yield incredible insights into the nature of our universe.

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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