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Scientists Develop New, Faster Ways to Find Dark Matter

An artist’s depiction of the internal workings of the HAYSTAC experiment. Credit: Steven Burrows

Scientists have been working for nearly a century to unravel the mystery of dark matter. Dark matter is an elusive substance that is likely to spread throughout the universe and make up the majority of its mass, but so far it has proven undetectable in experiments. Today, a team of researchers is using an innovative technology called “quantum squeeze” to dramatically speed up the search for dark matter candidates in the lab.


Survey results published today in the journal NatureFocusing on incredibly lightweight and undiscovered particles called axions. According to theory, axions can be billions to trillions of times smaller than electrons, and can have been created in huge numbers during the Big Bang. This is enough to explain the existence of dark matter.

However, finding this promising particle is a bit like looking for one quantum needle in one very large haystack.

You may be a little relieved. Researchers in a project called the HAYSTAC experiment in axion cold dark matter-sensitive ale report improving hunting efficiency over the fundamental obstacles imposed by the laws of thermodynamics. .. This group includes scientists from JILA, a joint research institute between the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“This is twice as fast as we could before,” said Kelly Bucks, one of the two lead authors of the new treatise and a graduate student at Yale University.

A new approach allows researchers to better separate the very weak signals that may be acces from random noise that exists on a very small scale in nature, sometimes referred to as “quantum fluctuations.” The study’s co-author, JILA’s NIST Fellow Konrad Lehnert, said the team’s chances of finding an axion in the next few years are about the same as winning the lottery. But those odds only get better.

“If there is a way to avoid quantum fluctuations, we can make the road better and better,” said Leonard, an associate professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

HAYSTAC is a partnership led by Yale University with JILA and the University of California, Berkeley.

Quantum law

Daniel Parken, co-lead author of the new treatise, explained that finding an axion is also so difficult that it is also an ideal candidate for dark matter. It is lightweight, has no charge, and interacts very little with ordinary substances. ..

“There are no properties that make it easy to detect particles,” said Parken, Ph.D. From JILA in 2020

However, there is one silver lining. When an axion passes through a strong enough magnetic field, a small number of axions can turn into waves of light. This is something that scientists can detect. Researchers have begun efforts to find these signals in the strong magnetic fields of the universe. However, in HAYSTAC’s experiments, we continue to plant our feet on Earth.

The project, which announced its first findings in 2017, will use a Yale campus ultra-low temperature facility to generate a strong magnetic field and attempt to detect a signal that turns an axion into light. It’s not an easy search. Scientists predict that axions can exhibit a very wide range of theoretical masses, and experiments like HAYSTAC each generate signals with light of different frequencies. Therefore, in order to find the actual particles, the team may have to use a variety of possibilities, such as adjusting the radio to find a single faint station.

“Trying to drill down to these very weak signals can take thousands of years,” Parken said.

Some of the biggest obstacles the team faces are the laws of quantum mechanics itself. In short, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle limits the accuracy with which scientists observe particles. In this case, the team cannot accurately measure two different properties of the light produced by the axion at the same time.

However, the HAYSTAC team has embarked on a way to evade these immutable laws.

Changes in uncertainty

The secret is to use a tool called the Josephson parametric amplifier. JILA scientists have used these small devices to develop a way to “squeeze” the light from HAYSTAC experiments.

Parken explained that the HAYSTAC team does not need to accurately detect both characteristics of the incident light wave, only one of them. Squeeze takes advantage of measurement uncertainty by shifting it from one of these variables to another.

“Squeeze is just our way of manipulating a quantum mechanical vacuum to put one variable in a position where it can be measured very well,” says Palken. “If you try to measure other variables, you will find that there is little accuracy.”

To test this method, researchers conducted a test run at Yale University looking for particles with a specific range of mass. They couldn’t find it, but the experiment took only half the normal time, Bucks said.

“We did 100 days of data execution,” she said. “Usually, this treatise took 200 days to complete, which saved me a third of the year. That’s great.”

Lennart added that the group is eager to push these limits even further, and has come up with a new way to dig its elusive needles.

“There’s a lot of meat left in the bones just to make the idea work,” he said.


Astrophysicist investigates “dark matter detector” in space


For more information:
Quantum-enhanced search for dark matter axion, Nature (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-03226-7, www.nature.com / articles / s41586-021-03226-7

Courtesy of University of Colorado, Boulder

Quote: Scientists have obtained dark matter (February 10, 2021) from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-scientists-faster-method-dark.html on February 10, 2021. Develop new, faster ways to look

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Scientists Develop New, Faster Ways to Find Dark Matter

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