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Dark Matter Not Yet Detected In Sanford Lab, But New Results Significant

Charles Michael Ray

Researchers on a major experiment deep in the Homestake Mine released the results of the latest run of the LUX dark matter detector on Monday December 14th.

So far, LUX has not found direct evidence of dark matter.   Researchers are hoping for tiny flashes of light inside the chamber of liquid xenon that would indicate an interaction with theoretical dark matter particles.   

But researchers say the results from this latest run of LUX are still scientifically significant. 

When you’re looking for something, sometimes you need to first rule out the locations where it isn’t, like first checking your pants pockets for those lost car keys.  The hunt for dark matter is obviously much more complex, but for scientists knowing where dark matter isn’t, can help them determine where to look next.   Dr. Richard Gaitskell, a physicist from Brown University, is a leading researcher on the Sanford Lab LUX experiment.  

“This hunt for dark matter spans many orders of magnitude, many factors of ten.  In fact, in the time I’ve been looking for dark matter the last 26 years we’ve been able to probe over a factor of 100-thousand in terms of our improvement in sensitivity and it’s quite reasonable to suggest we may have to span as much as much as a factor of 100-million in sensitivity, says Gaitskell.

Gaitskell says this last run of LUX probed for dark matter in regions where no one has looked before, he says future experiments will keep looking in new areas and ways.

“The fact that we haven’t yet been able to identify dark matter in particle accelerators or through direct detection it means we just have to keep improving the sensitivity and testing models and at some point we expect one of the models to end up being verified and we will then understand what the majority of this mass in our universe is,” says Gaitskell.

Gaitskell says the current model LUX detector uses about 1/3 of a ton of liquid xenon, but he says the next upgrade of the experiment is a 10 ton detector that will increase the sensitivity significantly.  He says that bigger detector  called the LZ  could be on line by 2020.


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