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The world's most sensitive dark matter detector yields the first results after 60 days of testing

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The researchers commented that they have not yet obtained the expected results, but they are optimistic.

Scientists announced the results obtained during the first 60 days of tests carried out with the The world’s most sensitive dark matter detector, known as the ‘LUX-ZEPLIN experiment’ (LZ), which is located at the Sanford Underground Research Center in South Dakota at a depth of 1,609 meters, reported the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

According to those responsible for the investigation , published on the arXiv preprint service, the device is designed to capture dark matter in the form of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). Since the 1980s, physicists have believed that dark matter is composed of WIMPs, since these interact with ordinary matter through gravity and the weak nuclear force.

Furthermore, they think that these particles, which appeared naturally after the Big Bang, should remain in sufficient amounts to explain dark matter, assuming they are about 100 times s more massive than a proton. In order to find the WIMPs, the scientists designed a detector to find recoil nuclei, which arise after the interaction between these particles with other atomic nuclei, that is, are the result of a nuclear reaction.

The LZ is made up of two titanium tanks that contain around 10 tons of pure liquid xenon, as well as two sets of photomultiplier tubes that have the ability to detect weak light sources. Xenon greatly reduces background radiation from titanium tanks, protecting the detector.

In search of dark matter

When a WIMP collides with a core, the resulting recoil core causes a detectable flash of light. Additionally, the electrons released from the xenon atoms are sent by an electric field towards the top of the tank, causing another flash of light. Subsequently, a comparison of the size and timing of the flashes is made to determine the types of recoil nuclei that interact in the xenon.

In accordance with the physicist of the University of California in Santa Barbara, Hugh Lippincott, about 335 nuclear recoil events were recorded in the LZ detector. However, this figure is roughly equal to the background events expected from the unavoidable traces of radioactive isotopes, such as lead-214 in xenon and other sources, so Lippincot noted that it cannot be confirmed that any WIMPs have been detected. The data was collected during a period of 3 and a half months of initial operations, at the end of December 2021.

Although the expected results are not yet available, Kevin Lesko , a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, commented that it is time for large-scale observations to begin, with the possibility of a dark matter particle colliding with a xenon atom in the detector in a short time, since both the detector as your systems are running successfully.

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