A first step towards testing dark energy theories on the table top

May 8, 2015 by Ans Hekkenberg, Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)
The force sensor is placed in the middle of an ultra-high vacuum chamber. Credit: Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)

Scientists from FOM and the VU University Amsterdam have designed an experiment to test a popular candidate theory that could explain the mechanisms behind dark energy. Now, they have reached an important milestone on the long road they have been following for the past four years: a working dark energy force detector. The first few tests with this new device give confidence that the sensitivity required to put the theory to the test can indeed be reached in the setup.

Dark energy

Physicists know that the expansion of the universe accelerates, but no one knows what the driving force behind this acceleration is. Although the mechanisms of the force remain unknown, physicists have given it a name: dark energy. Calculations show that about 70 percent of the total mass in the universe must be contributed to this mysterious energy, which we can neither see nor measure in any direct way.

One of the intriguing facts about dark energy is that it seems to act with enormous force over the vast empty spaces in our universe - pushing space apart, while not having any measurable effect on the scale of planets or even the solar system. This adaptive nature of dark energy has motivated the theoreticians Justin Khoury and Amanda Weltman to formulate the so-called 'chameleon' model in 2004. They suggested that the main actor of dark energy is a particle which interacts strongly in a high vacuum, while being screened in 'denser' environments such as on Earth or even in the Milky Way.

Outer chamber with its anti-vibration system. This system reduces seismic and acoustic noise to the level of Brownian noise. Credit: Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)

Several experiments have tried to test the chameleon model in various ways, but none of them has yet reached the required sensitivity that could falsify the theory.

A new approach - the Cannex setup

In 2010, the researchers worked in an international team to come up with a method to detect chameleon interactions. Their setup consists of two parallel plates. If the density of the medium between these plates changes, there should be a change in the strength of the chameleon interactions, and thus either a reduction or an increase in the measured force between the plates.

Researchers working on Cannex. Credit: Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)

Overcoming numerous technical challenges, the researchers have designed and built the setup, and dubbed it the 'Casimir and non-Newtonian force experiment' (Cannex). A recent first test of the revealed that the detector can indeed reach the required sensitivity to measure chameleon interactions. In other words, Cannex will soon be able to completely rule out or prove the existence of chameleon interactions, and thereby help solve the puzzle.


Moreover, Cannex is not just a machine for fundamental physics. It is also a prime example of how technical developments can be used for valorisation. Making a virtue out of the susceptibility of the force sensor to vibrations, the researchers developed a highly sensitive . This was done with the help of a FOM valorisation grant. This effort has led to a patent application and is currently in the final prototyping stage.

Explore further: The dark side of cosmology

More information: Force sensor for chameleon and Casimir force experiments with parallel-plate configuration, Phys. Rev. D 91, 102002 – Published 7 May 2015 . dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.91.102002 . On Arxiv: xxx.tau.ac.il/abs/1505.01763

Related Stories

The dark side of cosmology

March 6, 2015

It's a beautiful theory: the standard model of cosmology describes the universe using just six parameters. But it is also strange. The model predicts that dark matter and dark energy – two mysterious entities that have ...

Chameleon model tries to explain the origin of dark energy

December 20, 2010

Scientists at DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory report new experimental constraints on a theoretical model that tries to explain the origin of dark energy, the mysterious force that accelerates the expansion of ...

Physicists looking to test theory of 'cosmic domain walls'

January 21, 2013

(Phys.org)—An international team of physics researchers is looking to add credence to a theory that might help explain the nature of dark matter and dark energy – using magnetometers placed strategically around the globe. ...

CERN researchers confirm existence of the Force

April 1, 2015

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider just recently started testing the accelerator for running at the higher energy of 13 TeV, and already they have found new insights into the fundamental structure of the universe. Though ...

Recommended for you

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.

ATLAS experiment observes light scattering off light

March 20, 2019

Light-by-light scattering is a very rare phenomenon in which two photons interact, producing another pair of photons. This process was among the earliest predictions of quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory of ...

How heavy elements come about in the universe

March 19, 2019

Heavy elements are produced during stellar explosion or on the surfaces of neutron stars through the capture of hydrogen nuclei (protons). This occurs at extremely high temperatures, but at relatively low energies. An international ...

Trembling aspen leaves could save future Mars rovers

March 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Warwick have been inspired by the unique movement of trembling aspen leaves, to devise an energy harvesting mechanism that could power weather sensors in hostile environments and could even ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.4 / 5 (12) May 08, 2015
A note for these scientists: Remember the successful experiment of this kind can only fail to disprove the theory but never would be able to prove it without direct evidences of dark matter of what it actually is.

The same discussion of issue of proof regarding theory of relativity can be found at:
4.1 / 5 (14) May 08, 2015
Had a brief look at your link but, it makes lots of claims which don't seem to be consistent with immense body of evidence and in that respect I am keen to determine other's views of relativity so,

If I understand you correctly, you claim General & Special Relativity can't be proved or don't exist & don't follow "common sense". As I don't have a definition of "common sense" in a physics/maths framework then please supply your own but, it would need to be based on evidence.

But rather than digress into potential linguistic complexities, can you explain & focus on on thing why the Global Positioning Satellites corrections for GR/SR work so well & in accordance with maths of Einstein's theory ?


3.4 / 5 (5) May 08, 2015
Evidence can support or be consistent with a certain theory but there may always be other theories that are also consistent with that experimental data. So if you then dug deeper you might find an inconsistency. However if you find that the data contradicts a theoretical prediction this shows that the theory, at least in its present form, does not work.
1 / 5 (3) May 08, 2015
2.3 / 5 (9) May 08, 2015
Amazing lag-time for recent supernovae variation discoveries entering/correcting scientific literature/understandings. The correction/dismissal of totally hypothetical Dark Energy/Expansion claims and assumptions should not allow such science articles to still parrot the line...
Physicists know that the expansion of the universe accelerates...
Has no scientific advisor told these scientists that recent supernovae 'standard candles' were scientifically found to be NOT such 'standard candles' after all? The local enviironment and explosion profile/processes/outcomes of said supernovas can vary so much, and their light signals affected accordingly by those local factors/effects, that any further use for standard-candle-shifts/attenuation-based 'distance' is compromised to uselessness; or worse, to actively misleading interpretations of space expansion acceleration for confirmation biased BBang fantasies. This 'inertia' in science self-correcting is too much. Do better.
1 / 5 (6) May 08, 2015

'Was the universe born spinning?'

"The universe was born spinning and continues to do so around a preferred axis"

Our Universe spins around a preferred axis because it is a larger version of a galactic polar jet.

'Mysterious Cosmic 'Dark Flow' Tracked Deeper into Universe'

"The clusters appear to be moving along a line extending from our solar system toward Centaurus/Hydra"

The clusters are headed along this path because our Universe is a larger version of a polar jet.

It's not the Big Bang; it's the Big Ongoing.

Dark energy is dark matter continuously emitted into the Universal jet,
4.3 / 5 (6) May 09, 2015
"Physicists know that the expansion of the universe accelerates, but no one knows what the driving force behind this acceleration is. Although the mechanisms of the force remain unknown, physicists have given it a name: dark energy.

Finally, a *perfectly* accurate brief description of dark Energy in plain unambiguous English.

Dark Energy could be flaw in the GR model, an error in BB model, an error in observation as well as new type of energy or force, antigravity or whatever.
1.6 / 5 (7) May 09, 2015
According the theory of cosmic evolution - big bang theory, the universe is expanding. The reason for this claim is red shift of light coming form the distant galaxies as proponrts of this theory claim. And this thinkers calculate that distant galaxies are moving away from as with the speeds close to the speed of light. Because they also claim that there is no reper point in the universe, our own galaxy is moving away from these distant galaxies with the speed closer to the speed of light. And this continue bilion of years and the fuel for this movement is ocult dark energy, springing from nowhere. Perpetual motion machine in action.
Someone studied physics can you say at a speed close to the speed of light, what formation of stars and planets from gas clouds drifting with dizzying speed in cosmic space is possible?
If one theory have no realistic explanation but is repeated constantly in the media, it becomes a mantra.

1 / 5 (5) May 09, 2015
"Physicists know that the expansion of the universe accelerates... "

Tipical manipulative rhetoric addressed to laymans.

No, physicist do not know that the expansion of the universe accelerates"
1.4 / 5 (9) May 09, 2015
The first and main mistake is that science does not know the structure of the universe. The universe does not extend nor is there BB. The universe is an infinite sphere is full of real and invisible substance that we call the ether. Since ether is formed all matter and energy, which we measure, we see and we can follow. This entity should be called COSMOS, he is "immersed" in the ether, since ether fills even the quarks and gluons. Science is called dark, what neither knows. It's ether and it is futile to attempt to detect.
1 / 5 (8) May 09, 2015
Is it important to you to get the truth about something important, or you want everything to be long in your opinion
There will never using funds from the matter. Absolute consciousness of the universe (ACU) as immeasurable power of creation, form and disband the matter and stupid people as last patent Creator, trying to surpass the knowledge, and certainly knew nothing about themselves and the purpose they serve and why they in this form now. And wasting money and savvy. It is better to start to analyze who is causing the planet's spin. It is much more important discovery that could help us to find out the true cause of many other phenomenons around us and within us.
3.5 / 5 (2) May 09, 2015
This experiment is reminiscent to the Casimir Effect demonstrations. There is some evidence the the Casimir force is related to dark energy. .It would be interesting to see more details about this experiment to see if they are actually measuring the Casimir effect
4.3 / 5 (3) May 09, 2015
This experiment is reminiscent to the Casimir Effect demonstrations. There is some evidence the the Casimir force is related to dark energy. .It would be interesting to see more details about this experiment to see if they are actually measuring the Casimir effect

'Casimir and non-Newtonian force experiment' (Cannex)

Staight out of the article. Then you go for a Google search: http://cannex.in.nf/
At least you are amongst the few who are not confuse.
3.4 / 5 (8) May 09, 2015
This experiment is reminiscent to the Casimir Effect demonstrations. There is some evidence the the Casimir force is related to dark energy. .It would be interesting to see more details about this experiment to see if they are actually measuring the Casimir effect

The "Casimir effect" has never actually been measured, as far as I am aware. All of the measurements I have read about to date are completely consistent with normal van der Waals interactions between the parts of the measurement apparatus (typically two closely spaced plates). I've always been skeptical of this notion that "virtual particles", which are by definition NOT constrained by normal physical laws like conservation of energy & momentum, can produce a measurable effect WITHOUT first being converted into "real" particles (i.e. when the virtual particle-antiparcle pair fail to recombine within the Planck time).
May 09, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1.7 / 5 (6) May 10, 2015
Since the big bang hypothesis is a misinterpretation of the background red shift, dark matter, dark energy and "acceleration of expansion" are moot. Hubble's assistant Humason used unethical restrictions on access by astronomers to Mt. Wilson Observatory, limiting it to "believers' of Georges Lemaitre's "theologically consistent" explanation of creation. Pair formation is really the only viable matter creation mechanism, and the universe organizes itself into larger and larger structures (anentropically). CMBR is actually a resultant interference frequency, that varies slightly from place to place. Red shift is due to photon energy loss from several mechanisms, including absorption and re-emission, as well as gravitational lensing. Time is merely a metric relative to "the present state of the universe" that is established by motions of charge interactions in space -- there is no 'spacetime fabric" so the bending of light in GR tests is just the effect of gravity on light.
1.7 / 5 (6) May 10, 2015
What the mystico-physicists insist on calling "dark energy" is simply the energy of the background electromagnetic field that constitutes the primal "stuff" of the cosmos. Its descendent, "dark matter" consists of those regions of distortion and resultant higher energy density resulting from turbulence of the field surrounding the high energy concentrations of stars, planets, galaxies, those entities that we choose to call "ponderable matter." These are the same distortions that Einstein attributed to "spacetime," that non-physical hypothetical medium that is the core of his theories.
This "mysterious" substance (dark energy) is detectable as the shimmering turbulent phenomenon we see as background radiation, the actual nature of which is obscured by attributing its existence to yet another mystical hypothetical known as "the big bang." Its distortions are detectable both locally and at cosmological distances as the phenomena we describe as magnetic and gravitational fields.
not rated yet May 10, 2015
Feee Fi Fo Fum, I smell a "sub-space" radio coming on!
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2015
What Physics.org needs is a "Crackpot" flag, so those of us uninterested in this "Backyard particle physicists" theories can flag and filter them out.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.