Tabletop Dark Matter Detection
Dark matter is the name given to 84% of the material in the universe composed of unknown particles. Dark matter represents a huge gap in our understanding of the building blocks of the universe, but with enough ingenuity its nature can be investigated experimentally.
Although we think that dark matter surrounds us, it barely interacts with ordinary matter. To see any effects from dark matter, we need an exceedingly well controlled system that we can measure very precisely. A particle in a Penning trap is perfect for this application.
Certain types of fractionally charged dark matter could collide with a trapped particle and cause it to change its quantum state in a way which can be detected experimentally. Another hypothetical type of dark matter, the axion, can convert into a microwave photon in a strong magnetic field. We can use a Penning trapped electron to detect any microwave photons produced by this process. To encourage axion-to-photon decays, we are also investigating new types of resonant cavities. We hope to use our ability to precisely control the smallest particles to shed some light onto the mysteries of dark matter.
Left: Hubble Space telescope image of cluster Cl 0024+17 Right: dark matter distribution in blue inferred from gravitational lensing. Source: NASA, ESA M. J. Jee and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University)