Search for dark matter: Building the world’s most sensitive detector


© Copyright 2013 Carlos H. Faham

© Copyright 2013 Carlos H. Faham

A massive experiment quietly operating since spring roughly a mile underground in the Black Hills of South Dakota and involving liquid xenon, the world’s biggest detector and about a hundred international scientists — including Texas A&M University physicists — has proven itself the most sensitive dark matter detector in the world.

Among other distinguishing factors, the federally funded Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment features greatly enhanced sensitivity to low-mass WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles, that are believed to be the leading theoretical candidates for dark matter, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the universe but so far has been observed only by its gravitational effects on galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

LUX scientists claim a sensitivity limit three times better than any previous dark matter experiment as well as a sensitivity more than 20 times better than previous experiments for low-mass WIMPs, whose possible detection has been suggested by other experiments. Three such candidate low-mass WIMP events recently reported in ultra-cold silicon detectors would have produced more than 1,600 events in LUX’s much larger detector, or one every 80 minutes during the experiment’s recent run. No such signals were seen.

More at Texas A&M College Of Science