China's PandaX WIMP detector set to begin operations soon

Jan 31, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
The field cage for phase-1a

( —China's PandaX Dark Matter Experiment is in final preparations to begin operating sometime early this year, representatives for the project have told the press. Its mission is to capture evidence of a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle (WIMP) colliding with the nucleus of a xenon atom—evidence of dark matter.

Several facilities around the world are already conducting the same sort of research, of course, but the facility in China has a decided advantage—it's sheltered beneath tons of marble. As with the other facilities, the idea is to prove that WIMPs are real and by extension, that theories about dark matter are as well.

Dark matter isn't something that has been proven to exist, instead, it's a theory that has been developed to explain gravitational anomalies in space—why do galaxies have by objects that cannot be seen? Scientists believe it's because of a type of matter that has a gravitational impact, but cannot be seen by the naked eye, or with any other type of device that physicists have conceived. The best they've been able to come up with is the idea of WIMPS—a theoretical elementary particle that makes up dark matter. If the existence of WIMPS can be proven, that would go a long way towards proving that theories regarding are true too.

Thus far none of the research facilities constructed to detect WIMPs has been able to do so, though the idea for all of them is essentially the same—fill a big tank with a certain type of material, shield it from other space based particles, then watch for collisions between the nucleus of an atom of the material used and some other particle—hopefully, a WIMP. With the Chinese project, the material is —1.2 metric tons of it. Physicists hope that if such a collision does occur, photons and electrons will be given off and the combination of the two will be enough for sensors to detect where in the vat the collision occurred. That will allow for calculating the speed of the object that made its way in, which can be compared with theories about the speed at which WIMPs travel—if the two match, physicists around the globe will conclude that it was most likely a WIMP and those on the project can start preparing their Noble Prize acceptance speeches.

The field cage integrated with the top PMT supporting plate

Explore further: Mathematical scientist suggests possible test for existence of axions

More information:

Related Stories

Super-CDMS researchers report possible evidence of WIMPs

Apr 16, 2013

( —Researchers working at the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) facility, located underground in Minnesota's Soudan Mine, are reporting in a paper uploaded to the preprint server arXiv that t ...

Theorists weigh in on where to hunt dark matter

May 22, 2013

( —Now that it looks like the hunt for the Higgs boson is over, particles of dark matter are at the top of the physics "Most Wanted" list. Dozens of experiments have been searching for them, but ...

Recommended for you

Timely arrival of Pharao space clock

3 hours ago

ESA has welcomed the arrival of Pharao, an important part of ESA's atomic clock experiment that will be attached to the International Space Station in 2016.

First in-situ images of void collapse in explosives

Jul 25, 2014

While creating the first-ever images of explosives using an x-ray free electron laser in California, Los Alamos researchers and collaborators demonstrated a crucial diagnostic for studying how voids affect ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (4) Jan 31, 2014
the reason the big deal is that the installation is in a marble mountain is because after years of trying to do this experiment it has become clear that radiation from the earth's crust is a big deal to filter out. the process that creates marble should have left an area that is much lower in random radiation than other sites.