An associate professor of physics at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano, working on one of the three new experiments said:

“Nature is being coy. There’s something we just don’t understand about the internal structure of how the universe works. When theorists write down all the ways dark matter might interact with our particles, they find, for the simplest models, that we should have seen it already. Even though we haven’t found it yet, there’s a message there, one that we’re trying to decode now.”

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Listening to this, professor of Physics at the University of California and science lead for the LUX upgrade called LUX-ZEPLIN, Harry Nelson replied:

“We’re all looking and somewhere, maybe even now, there’s a little bit of data that will cause someone to have an ‘Ah ha!’ moment,” said. “This idea that there’s something out there that we can’t sense yet is one of those things that sends chills down my spine.”

For years, the scientists are well aware that dark matter exists and is quietly influencing the universe’s movement and composition. But the question is what is dark matter?; what it is made of and what does a dark matter particle look like? This has always been a mystery and will stay a mystery for eons with experiment coming in one after the other and going back empty-handed in the hunt to detect these vague particles.

Luckily, if things go right, this may change soon. With reactivity ten times higher than the previous experiments, three new experiments have been funded for dark matter for which the scientists are really excited. They think that with these experiments, they are likely to finally harvest these coveted particles.

Scientists working on these experiments recently got into talks with The Kavli Foundation and said that they have high hopes of these new experiments that would help catch dark matter for them. However, in the end, they also agreed that their success or failure is still uncertain.

The Three New Experiments

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Amongst the three new experiments, the first one is named the “Axion Dark Matter experiment” (ADMX), which is focused on a theoretical form of dark matter particles called the axion. ADMX seeks to validate this very lightweight particle turning into a photon in the high magnetic field of the experiment. By gradually changing the magnetic field, the experimenter hunts for one axion mass at a time.

Gray Rybka, research assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington and the co-leads of ADMX Gen 2 experiment, said:

“We’ve demonstrated that we have the tools necessary to see axions,” said. “With Gen2, we’re buying a very, very powerful refrigerator that will arrive very shortly. Once it arrives, we’ll be able to scan very, very quickly and we feel we’ll have a much better chance of finding axions – if they’re out there.”

A different type of hypothetical dark matter is sought by the two other new experiments called “Weakly Interacting Massive Particle” (WIMP). This particle i.e. WIMP communicates with the world infrequently and very dimly.

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment began in 2009 which is getting sensitivity upgrades for the heavier WIMPs.

Being a member of the SuperCDMS experiment, Figueroa-Feliciano at one point said:

“In a way, it’s like looking for gold,” said. “Harry has his pan and he’s looking for gold in a deep pond, and we’re looking in a slightly shallower pond, and Gray’s a little upstream, looking in his own spot. We don’t know who’s going to find gold because we don’t know where it is.”

Photo via. Wonderopolis

Rybka agreed to what Feliciano said but further added the more positive standpoint saying that it’s also likely that all three experiments will be able to find dark matter. He said:

“There’s nothing that would require dark matter to be made of just one type of particle except us hoping that it’s that simple,” he said. “Dark matter could be one-third axions, one-third heavy WIMPs and one-third light WIMPs. That would be perfectly allowable from everything we’ve seen.”

Yet the ingot for which all three experiments are funded is a very expensive one. Although the hunt is very difficult, the three scientists are optimistic and consider it to be a worthwhile investment, since  harvesting dark matter would disclose a huge fraction of the universe.

 

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