Supermaterials Offer New Means of Searching for Superlight Dark Matter

No one said detecting dark matter would be easy. We didn’t even know about the stuff until a couple of decades ago, after all, despite the fact that it represents some 85 percent of all of the mass in the universe and is what’s responsible for giving structure to the cosmos. We see its effects across the universe, but we have yet to see it. We’re not even sure what exactly we’re looking for—there are many theories as to the exact properties of a dark matter particle. Some aren’t even all that dark.

By Michael Byrne | MOTHERBOARD

The leading candidate for dark matter is a particle known as a WIMP, or weakly-interacting massive particle. These are really heavy, classically „dark“ particles. They interact with other matter via only the gravitational force, crucially evading electromagnetic interactions, which are what most of the interactions we see out in the world are based on: from a baseball whapping into a catcher’s mitt to the nanoscale electrical circuits enabling the machine you are now staring at.

WIMP detection is premised on WIMPs having sufficient mass to smack into an atomic nuclei with enough force to create a bit of light or heat, which can then be registered by the detector. A problem then arises when we start trying to imagine dark matter particles that maybe aren’t so heavy and, as such, may result in interactions below the sensitivity of current detectors. This is where the work of Kathryn Zurek and colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory comes in—bagging superlight dark matter may require supermaterials.

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