New Experiment To “Trap” Dark Matter Could Unravel Mysteries of the Universe

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have developed a 3D-printed vacuum system as part of an experiment to detect dark matter and potentially uncover the nature of dark energy. This system manipulates the density of gas and utilizes ultra-cold lithium atoms to explore the effects of scalar fields, aiming to observe domain walls – defects formed during phase transitions in scalar fields. These defects, known as dark walls, are crucial in understanding the universe’s accelerating expansion and the mysterious phenomena of dark matter and dark energy.

The researchers based their work on the theory that light scalar fields, with double well potentials and direct matter couplings, undergo density-driven phase transitions, leading to the formation of domain walls. By lowering the density and introducing ultra-cold atoms, the team hopes to detect the deflection of these atoms as they pass through the dark walls, thus confirming their existence or lack thereof.

To carry out this experiment, the researchers cooled lithium atoms to close to absolute zero using laser photons. This cooling process gives the atoms quantum properties, making analysis more precise and predictable. The 3D-printed vacuum chamber, designed by Associate Professor Lucia Hackermueller, is shaped, structured, and textured to optimally trap the dark matter.

The team took three years to build the system and expects to have results within a year. If they can successfully demonstrate the trapping of dark walls, it will be a significant step forward in our understanding of dark energy and dark matter, as well as an excellent example of how a well-controlled lab experiment can be designed to measure effects that are relevant for the universe.

This study was published in Physical Review D and the title of the article is “Detecting dark domain walls through their impact on particle trajectories in tailored ultrahigh vacuum environments”.

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