Ultraprecise atomic clock network on the hunt for dark matter

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Researchers are placing a world community of probably the most exact timekeepers ever made to the duty of trying to find darkish matter, the invisible and largely intangible substance that researchers assume makes up about five-sixths of all matter within the universe.

The existence of darkish matter is recommended through its gravitational results on the actions of stars and galaxies. Nonetheless, it stays a thriller as to what it could be composed of, and initiatives starting from probably the most highly effective atom smasher ever constructed to vats of chilly liquid xenon have did not discover a hint of it thus far, lead research writer Piotr Wcisło, a physicist at Nicolaus Copernicus College in Toruń, Poland, advised Area.com.

Scientists have largely eradicated all recognized particles as doable explanations for darkish matter. One remaining risk is that darkish matter is product of a brand new type of particle; one other is that darkish matter shouldn’t be product of particles in any respect, however somewhat a area that pervades area very similar to gravity does. [8 Baffling Astronomy Mysteries]

Earlier analysis recommended that if darkish matter is a area, constructions may emerge inside it — “topological defects” formed like factors, strings or sheets and probably reaching no less than the scale of a planet, Wcisło stated. These constructions may need fashioned throughout the chaos after the Large Bang, and primarily froze into secure varieties when the early universe cooled down.

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Now scientists are testing the existence of dark-matter fields by searching for disturbances in a number of the most correct scientific devices ever constructed — atomic clocks. These devices maintain time by monitoring the quivering of atoms, a lot as grandfather clocks depend on swinging pendulums. These days, atomic clocks are so correct that they might lose not more than 1 second each 15 billion years, longer than the 13.Eight-billion-year age of the universe.

Interacting with a topological defect may make an atomic clock’s atoms briefly shake sooner or slower. By monitoring a community of synchronized atomic clocks which might be unfold far sufficient aside for a topological defect to affect some clocks however not others, scientists may detect the existence of those ghostly constructions and measure a few of their properties, resembling their measurement and velocity.

The researchers employed optical atomic clocks, which use laser beams to measure the motions of atoms when they’re slowed down by cooling them to temperatures close to absolute zero. They calculated that passing by a topological defect may enhance or lower the fine-structure fixed, which describes the general power of the electromagnetic power. Such modifications would alter how atoms reply to lasers and the speed at which these clocks ticked.

One other doable rationalization for darkish matter is that its results are brought on by fields that change in power over time, which in flip result in common fluctuations within the power of the electromagnetic area. Atomic clocks may, in principle, assist detect such “coherently oscillating classical scalar fields,” the scientists famous.

By analyzing 4 atomic clocks on three continents — in Colorado, France, Poland and Japan — the researchers may search for refined variations within the fine-structure fixed with about 100 occasions better sensitivity than earlier experiments. Nonetheless, they didn’t detect any sign according to darkish matter.

One of many main issues of optical atomic clocks is that they will presently solely function repeatedly for a few day, Wcisło stated. One purpose for that is that optical atomic clocks have to maintain many lasers working in sync to be able to work, and over time no less than one among these lasers fall out of sync. Nonetheless, Wcisło famous a key benefit of their community is that it doesn’t require all its clocks to function on the identical time.

The scientists purpose to double the variety of clocks of their community within the subsequent 12 months or two, Wcisło stated, which may enhance the sensitivity and statement time of their community by an element of 10 or extra.

The scientists detailed their findings on-line at the moment (Dec. 7) within the journal Science Advances.

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