A promising way to detect elusive dark matter particles

A new way to search for dark matter reveals hidden materials properties.


Discovering ways to detect dark matter particles, which form such a significant part of the Milky Way- is a top priority in astroparticle physics. For that purpose, large detectors have been built deep underground to catch the particles as they bounce off atomic nuclei.

Until now, these mysterious particles have escaped detection. As per the Chalmers analysts, a potential clarification could be that dark matter particles are lighter than protons. In this manner, don’t cause the nuclei to recoil—envision a ping pong ball colliding into a bowling ball. A promising method to beat this problem could be to shift focus from nuclei to electrons, which are much lighter.

In a new study, scientists from the Chalmers University of Technology together with ETH Zürich, Switzerland develop a promising way to detect elusive dark matter particles through previously unexplored atomic responses occurring in the detector material. 

They even described the way dark matter particles can interact with the electrons in atoms. They propose that the rate at which dark matter can kick electrons out of atoms relies upon four independent atomic responses—three of which were already unidentified. They have determined how electrons in argon and xenon atoms, utilized in today’s largest detectors, ought to react to dark matter.

Timon Emken, a postdoctoral researcher in the dark matter group at the Department of Physics at Chalmers, said“We tried to remove as many access barriers as possible. The paper is published in a fully open access journal, and the scientific code to compute the new atomic response functions is open source for anyone who wants to take a look ‘under the hood’ of our paper.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Riccardo Catena et al. Atomic responses to general dark matter-electron interactions, Physical Review Research (2020). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevResearch.2.033195
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