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World’s Most Sensitive Dark Matter Experiment Gets US Funding

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The U.S. Department of Energy approves funding for an experiment that would hunt for hypothetical particles that could potentially solve the mystery surrounding dark matter.

The properties of the weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs)  are yet to be explored by other experiments in the past. The proponents of the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search experiment believed that by understanding WIMP properties, they will finally yield answers to questions regarding dark matter composition.

The experiment will be at least 50 times more sensitive compared to other similar experiments.

"Our experiment will be the world's most sensitive for relatively light WIMPS — in a mass range from a fraction of the proton mass to about 10 proton masses," says Richard Partridge, head of the SuperCDMS group at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. The latter is a joint institute of SLAC and Stanford University.

$34 Million Worth Dark Matter Experiment

The experiment has obtained both Critical Decisions 2 and 3 levels of approvals from the DOE. If everything goes according to plan, the facility will begin operations by the early 2020s.

The SuperCDMS is supported by various conglomerations, including major educational institutions. Chief investors are the DOE Office of Science with its $19 million contributions, the National Science Foundation with $12 million, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation with $3 million.

The experiment will be assembled at the Canadian laboratory, the SNOLAB, which is 6,800 feet underground. It is located within a nickel mine and touted as the deepest underground laboratory in North America.

The location was specifically chosen because it can protect the experiment from high cosmic radiation that can create unnecessary background signals.

Ultracold Conditions

Inside the SNOLAB, the search for dark matter will be done using silicon and germanium crystals. These materials allow for the collisions to trigger small vibrations. The collisions will also produce pairs of electrons and electron deficiencies that can travel through crystals. The latter could stimulate more atomic vibrations that could finally amplify the signal created from dark matter collisions.

To measure the atomic jiggles, the crystals will be cooled to less than minus 459.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a fraction of a degree above absolute zero temperature. Hopefully, the elusive dark matter will register its prints through these ultracold conditions.

What Is Dark Matter?

The universe is made up of an estimated 15 percent of all known matter. The rest of the percentage is the indefinable dark matter with its composition, nature, and behavior remaining unknown. Dark matter, to date, is one of the great mysteries of science, specifically in the study of physics.

NASA likened dark matter to an underlying scaffolding upon which galaxies are built and an invisible glue that holds almost everything in the galaxies. In fact, there had been a governing theory that all galaxies have dark matter and dark matter is how galaxy begins.

In March, however, the agency has uncovered another mysterious phenomenon surrounding dark matter. Scientists stumbled on one galaxy without dark matter. The discovery, nevertheless, shows that dark matter is real and exists separately from all other components of galaxies.

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