Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCLA 'dark matter' conference highlights new research on mysterious cosmic substance

26.02.2010
UCLA scientists to discuss XENON100, the newest dark matter detector

Dark matter, for more than 70 years as mysterious and unknowable a subject to science as the legendary island of Atlantis has been to history, is bringing 140 scientists from the U.S., Europe and Asia to the Marriott Hotel in Marina del Rey for the ninth UCLA Symposium on Sources and Detection of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe. The three-day conference runs through Friday, Feb. 26.

"Dark matter is one of the last great frontiers in science," said David B. Cline, UCLA professor of physics, high-energy astrophysicist and symposium organizer. "Once we know what it really is, we will break through into a new realm of nature. It's going to be an entirely new era for science, it's going to pose fascinating new questions, it's going to be exciting."

First proposed in the 1930s by the late California Institute of Technology scientist Fritz Zwicky to explain why some galaxies appeared more ponderous than their luminosity would suggest, dark matter is thought to account for almost 25 percent of the universe today. Just 5 percent is made up of visible, tangible matter; the remaining 70 percent is in the equally baffling form of dark energy. Despite its abundance, uncontested reality and ubiquity, dark matter has so far evaded direct observation.

At the symposium, scientists will discuss a range of topics, from tantalizing hints of dark matter gleaned from a dozen or so experiments currently underway around the world, to more sophisticated detectors that will perhaps reveal at last the true identity of this mysterious stuff, to considerations of a still deeper and more profound stratum in nature.

UCLA professor of physics Katsushi Arisaka and Hanguo Wang, a UCLA physics researcher, will describe the newest dark matter detector, XENON100, which UCLA has been operating beneath Italy's Gran Sasso mountain, some 70 miles west of Rome, in partnership principally with Columbia University and Rice University, along with seven other institutions in Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and China.

The XENON100 detector is an instrumented vat, about the size of a stockpot — 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches tall — holding 220 pounds of frigid liquid xenon. It is, in effect, a traffic surveillance camera that can record the occasional, if very infrequent, collision between a dark matter particle and a xenon atom.

There is a certain irony to this, given that xenon is a heavy, noble gas that does not react easily with other elements and yet is the target of choice for subatomic particles that themselves are very aloof. But both are large entities in their respective realms, the physicists reason, and so are bound to collide sooner or later. And when they do, the UCLA team believes the XENON100 detector will capture the event through signals that only a xenon–dark matter collision can produce.

Dark matter is widely thought to be a kind of massive elementary particle that interacts weakly, when it interacts at all, with ordinary matter; physicists call these particles WIMPs, for weakly interacting massive particles.

WIMPs are everywhere throughout the universe, streaming constantly through the Milky Way galaxy, the solar system, Earth's atmosphere, mountains — and even cylinders filled with liquid xenon. And when the occasional WIMP does bump into a xenon molecule, the xenon atom recoils and emits a tiny flash of scintillation, or light. The bump also causes the struck xenon to give off a small burst of ionizing radiation.

Both signals fall on an array of small, sensitive sensors — "avalanche photon-intensifying devices," so-called because a single scintillating flash sets off a cascade of electrons into the instrument's recorders. Imagine the sound of a pin dropped on a marble counter instantly transformed into booms of a bass drum and you begin to appreciate the effectiveness of these sensors.

Cline praised Arisaka and Wang for the way they integrated these sensors into the overall XENON100 detector, saying that the devices can discriminate between those signals triggered by dark matter and those triggered by gamma rays and naturally occurring radioactive elements in Gran Sasso mountain.

As proud as they are of the XENON100 instrument and its performance to date — indeed, even before they know definitively if they have caught sight of one or more WIMPs — the UCLA team is working on bigger, more sensitive dark matter detectors. A XENON1000 device, 10 times larger than the one now operating, would provide a 100-times larger arena, and much greater opportunities, for WIMPs and xenon to collide, for confirming test results to be gathered and for the unraveling of dark matter to begin.

For more information about the UCLA symposium, visit www.physics.ucla.edu/hep/dm10/index.html.

UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 323 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Five alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists reach back in time to discover some of the most power-packed galaxies
28.02.2017 | Clemson University

nachricht From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

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: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists reach back in time to discover some of the most power-packed galaxies

28.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nano 'sandwich' offers unique properties

28.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Light beam replaces blood test during heart surgery

28.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>