UCSB Researchers Shed Light on Dark Matter
by Valerie McNutt


In the global race to understand dark matter, the U.S. has once again taken the lead with help from researchers at UCSB.

On February 22, UCSB researcher, Rupak Mahapatra, presented advances in the detection of dark matter, the substance that many scientists believe holds the universe together, including our own Milky Way galaxy, at the Eighth UCLA Symposium: Sources and Detection of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe.

At an underground lab in Soudan, Minnesota, scientists from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) have set up thirty cryogenic particle detectors that they believe will be able to detect Weak Interacting Massive Particles (WIMP); the theoretical building blocks of dark matter.

The WIMPs will come in contact with the detector’s core and set off a vibration not unlike that of a bell, according to Mahapatra’s presentation. These new detectors have a greater sensitivity to the WIMPs and will cut down on background interference from other particles. So far, no WIMPs have been detected, but those involved in the project have high hopes for the future.

The CDMS is a collaboration of twenty institutions including several universities, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. The goal is to prove the existence of and understand dark matter.

The lab is located underground to guard against interference from other particles and all experiments are done at temperatures close to absolute zero, the temperature at which particles have minimum energy.