Santa Barbara – Large Underground Xenon (LUX) researchers have improved the sensitivity of the light detectors by using neutrons, making it easier to find dark matter particles.
The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) is a dark matter experiment conducted by the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s the most sensitive dark matter detector. However, LUX scientists have significantly improved the sensitivity by a small calibration method, using neutrons as substitutes for dark matter particles. This otherwise-undermined improvement is likely to give LUX four times more exposure to the particles than before.
LUX researchers are on the lookout for weakly interacting massive particles or WIMPS, which are thought to be dark matter particles. With the new calibration, Risk Gaitskell, physics professor at Brown University, believes that the search for WIMPS will be dramatically enhanced.
Overall, LUX works in a simple way if approached by the average person perspective. It’s made out of one-third ton of liquid xenon, a colorless, odorless and dense noble gas, which is then enclosed by perceptive light detectors. It is designed this way in order to easily recognize the rare event of dark matter particles colliding with a xenon atom. When such occasion occurs, the xenon atom will shrink back and emit a small flash, which is detected by the light sensors. With the new improvement, the bouncing neutrons off the xenon atoms will allow scientists to calculate and know how the detector will respond to the retreating process.
Researchers believe that using neutrons is the answer to improve the detectors’ sensitivity because the reaction between them and xenon atoms is expected to be very much like the interaction between dark matter particles and said atoms.
“It’s just that dark matter particles interact very much more weakly — about a million-million-million-million times more weakly,” said Prof. Gaitskell.
The discovery of dark matter would completely change the way we see space nowadays, offering more answers and plenty more questions on the creation of the planets, galaxies and the universe itself.