Washington, September 26 (ANI): A team of scientists has developed a "scintillating bolometer", a device that they will use in efforts to detect the dark matter of the Universe.
The device was developed by researchers from the University of Zaragoza (UNIZAR) and the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS, in France).
"One of the biggest challenges in Physics today is to discover the true nature of dark matter, which cannot be directly observed - even though it seems to make up one-quarter of the matter of the Universe. So we have to attempt to detect it using prototypes such as the one we have developed", said Eduardo Garcia Abancens, a researcher from the UNIZAR's Laboratory of Nuclear Physics and Astroparticles.
Abancens is one of the scientists working on the ROSEBUD project (an acronym for Rare Objects SEarch with Bolometers UndergrounD), an international collaborative initiative between the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale and the University of Zaragoza, which is focusing on hunting for dark matter in the Milky Way.
The scientists have been working for the past decade on this mission at the Canfranc Underground Laboratory, in Huesca, where they have developed various cryogenic detectors (which operate at temperatures close to absolute zero: -273.15 degrees Celsius).
The latest is a "scintillating bolometer", a 46-gram device that, in this case, contains a crystal "scintillator", made up of bismuth, germinate and oxygen, which acts as a dark matter detector.
"This detection technique is based on the simultaneous measurement of the light and heat produced by the interaction between the detector and the hypothetical WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) which, according to various theoretical models, explain the existence of dark matter", explained Abancens.
The researcher explains that the difference in the scintillation of the various particles enables this method to differentiate between the signals that the WIMPs would produce and others produced by various elements of background radiation (such as alpha, beta or gamma particles).
In order to measure the miniscule amount of heat produced, the detector must be cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero, and a cryogenic facility, reinforced with lead and polyethylene bricks and protected from cosmic radiation as it housed under the Tobazo mountain, has been installed at the Canfranc underground laboratory.
"The new scintillating bolometer has performed excellently, proving its viability as a detector in experiments to look for dark matter, and also as a gamma spectrometer (a device that measures this type of radiation) to monitor background radiation in these experiments", said Abancens. (ANI)