Dark matter: New detector enhances search for ‘missing’ 95% of universe

Illustration of dark matter penetrating a spiral galaxy.

Illustration: Division of Research

Rusty Harris, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, recently joined the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) collaboration in announcing a new threshold of dark matter detection with extremely improved background rejection capabilities.

CDMS scientists like Harris make detectors out of large masses of ultra-high purity germanium (Ge) and silicon (Si). When the Ge/SI detectors are buried deep underground and cooled to very low temperatures, the collision with dark matter particles releases heat and charge that can be detected when that temperature is below 100 milliKelvin (very close to absolute zero).

A comparison of the amount of charge and heat released can distinguish whether the collision event was a result of a known high energy particle/photon or that of a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle (WIMP) as dark matter is commonly called.

The announcement shifts the border of the WIMP search down to a dark-matter particle mass and rate of interaction that has never been probed.

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