Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seeking Dark Matter on a Desktop

16.03.2010
Desktop experiments could point the way to dark matter discovery, complementing grand astronomical searches and deep underground observations. According to recent theoretical results, small blocks of matter on a tabletop could reveal elusive properties of the as-yet-unidentified dark matter particles that make up a quarter of the universe, potentially making future large-scale searches easier.

This finding was announced today by theorists from the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES), a joint institute of the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, at the American Physical Society meeting in Portland, Oregon.

"Tabletop experiments can be extremely illuminating," said condensed matter theorist Shoucheng Zhang, who published the results with SIMES colleagues Rundong Li, Jing Wang and Xiao-Liang Qi. "We can make observations in tabletop experiments that help us figure the deeper mysteries of the universe."

In a paper published in the March 7 online edition of Nature Physics, Zhang and his colleagues describe an experimental set-up that could detect for the first time the axion, a theoretical tiny, lightweight particle conjectured to permeate the universe. With its very small mass and lack of electric charge, the axion is a candidate for the mysterious dark matter particle. Yet, despite much effort, the axion has never been observed experimentally.

That may change thanks to the SIMES theorists’ forefront research into topological insulators. In this small, newly discovered subset of materials, electrons travel with great difficulty through the interior but flow with much less resistance on the surface, much as they can in superconductive materials. Even better, they do this at room temperature. This leads to unusual properties that may be important for applications such as spintronics, an emerging technology that could allow for a new class of low-power, high-density, superior-performance electronic devices.

In their research into other applications for topological insulators, Zhang and his colleagues discovered that the electromagnetic behavior of topological insulators is described by the very same mathematical equations that describe the behavior of axions; wondrously, the laws of the universe related to axions are mirrored in this new class of materials. As a result of this mathematical parallel, the theorists posit that experiments on topological insulators can reveal much about the axions that are predicted to pervade the universe.

“That both are described by the same mathematical equation is the beauty of physics,” said Zhang. “Mathematics is so powerful—it means we can study these things in topological insulators as if they were a baby universe.”

In their paper, Zhang and his colleagues describe one particular class of topological insulator in which the parallel mathematics related to axions is most apparent, and suggest several experiments that could be performed to “see” axions in the electromagnetic behavior of topological insulators. These experiments could offer additional insight into the physical characteristics of the axion, insight that would simplify the astronomical search by giving observers a better idea of where to look for evidence of the axion hidden behind the overall roar of the universe.

“If we ‘see’ an axion in a tabletop experiment, it will be extremely illuminating,” Zhang said. “It will help shed light on the dark matter mystery.”

The Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science, SIMES, is a joint institute of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Research at SIMES is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

Kelen Tuttle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.slac.stanford.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>