Science & Technology
Major project fails to detect dark matter
By T.K. Randall
July 21, 2016 · 52 comments
The Large Underground Xenon detector. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Gigaparsec
Scientists have shut down their state-of-the-art dark matter detector after it failed to find anything.
Despite accounting for up to four-fifths of the mass of the entire universe, the enigmatic and unseen substance known as dark matter continues to remain as elusive as ever.
This week the researchers behind a Ł7 million ultra-sensitive dark matter detector were left scratching their heads after the system failed to find even the remotest trace of it.
Known as The Large Underground Xenon (Lux), the detector sits inside a large tank of 72,000 gallons of high purity water which is itself situated within a former gold mine in South Dakota.
The experiment hoped to pick up evidence of dark matter in the form of small flashes of light produced when the dark matter particles collided with xenon atoms.
"With this final result from the 2014 to 2016 search, the scientists of the Lux Collaboration have pushed the sensitivity of the instrument to a final performance level that is four times better than the original project goals," said Professor Rick Gaitskell from Brown University.
"It would have been marvellous if the improved sensitivity had also delivered a clear dark matter signal. However, what we have observed is consistent with background alone."
Not all is lost however as the team is now planning to build another detector - one that will be 70 times more sensitive than the current one.
Perhaps it won't be long before the nature and origins of dark matter will finally be revealed.
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