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Keeping dark matter detectors clean and accurate

Date Published: 01/07/2020 [Source]

A research team at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has built an air purifier that has reduced the radon in the air to about 50 times lower than typical outdoor air. The team is helping to ensure success for one of the world's most sensitive dark matter experiments—LZ.

Dark matter has never been directly observed. But it is believed to make up 85% of all the matter in the universe. The mystery of dark matter is considered to be one of the most pressing questions in particle physics.

The LZ experiment is run deep underground where it will be protected from high-energy particles, called cosmic radiation, which can create unwanted background signals. But underground environments pose other challenges. They are often higher in radon, which can also impede sensitive experiments.

The South Dakota Mines team has also designed and installed a radon reduction system for the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment. This experiment is in the hunt for suspected dark matter particles alongside LZ. SuperCDMS SNOLAB will be assembled and operated at the Canadian laboratory SNOLAB, located 6,800 feet underground inside a nickel mine near the city of Sudbury, Ontario. It's the deepest underground laboratory in North America. SD Mines is one of 26 institutions worldwide working on SuperCDMS SNOLAB.

These two experiments, SuperCDMS SNOLAB and LZ, are powerful new tools that will try to solve one of the biggest mysteries of modern physics—dark matter.