Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Shot in the Dark: Detector on the Hunt for Dark Matter

Leslie Rosenberg and his colleagues are about to go hunting. Their quarry: A theorized-but-never-seen elementary particle called an axion.

The search will be conducted with a recently retooled, extremely sensitive detector that is currently in a testing and shakeout phase at the University of Washington's Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics.

The axion was first conjectured by physicists in the late 1970s as a solution to a problem in a theory called quantum chromodynamics. Little is known for sure about the axion. It appears to react gravitationally to matter, but otherwise it seems to have no other interaction.

Since the 1930s, scientists have believed there must be some unseen but massive substance, a sort of gravitational glue, that prevents rotating galaxies from spinning apart. Axions, if they in fact do exist, are candidates for the makeup of cold dark matter that would act as that gravitational glue.

Dark matter is believed to account for about one-quarter of all the mass in the universe. However, because axions react so little – and the reactions they are likely to produce are so faint – finding them is tricky.

"We have probably the most sensitive axion detector in operation," Rosenberg said. "It looks for the incredibly feeble interaction between the axion and electromagnetic radiation."

The aim of the Axion Dark Matter Experiment is to search for cold dark matter axions in the halo of the Milky Way galaxy by detecting the very weak conversion of axions into microwave photons.

The detector employs a powerful magnet surrounding a sensitive microwave receiver that is supercooled to 4.2 kelvins, or about minus-452 F. Such low temperature reduces thermal noise and greatly increases the chance that the detector will actually see axions converting to microwave photons.

The microwave receiver can be fine-tuned to the axion mass, which also increases the possibility of detecting an interaction between axions and the detector's magnetic field. A reaction would deposit a minuscule amount of electromagnetic power into the receiver, which could be recorded by computers monitoring the detector.

There have been previous efforts to locate the axion, but there is greater interest in the Axion Dark Matter Experiment because of recent developments in physics research. The most notable is that the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, lauded for its discovery of the elusive Higgs boson in 2012, did not find evidence to support supersymmetry, a proposed resolution for some inconsistencies among theories of particle physics.

That lack of evidence provided impetus to separate the search for dark matter from work on supersymmetry, Rosenberg said, so the newest version of the Axion Dark Matter Experiment is drawing substantial interest among researchers.

"This is a needle-in-a-haystack experiment. Once we find the needle, we can stop immediately," Rosenberg said.

"We could find it in our first week of data-taking, our last week of data-taking, or never."

Assembly of the detector was completed in early October, and the team has begun weeks to months of commissioning, which involves testing and fine-tuning the equipment. Then the hunt will begin in earnest.

Collaborators in the research come from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; the National Radio Astronomy Observatory; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Sheffield in England; the University of Florida; and Yale University. The work is funded by the Department of Energy.

For more information, contact Rosenberg at 206-221-5856 or

Vince Stricherz | Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma
28.10.2016 | American Physical Society

nachricht Scientists measure how ions bombard fusion device walls
28.10.2016 | American Physical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>