It permeates our universe and poses major challenges for research: Dark matter. Since it does not emit any light or any other form of electromagnetic radiation, it remains invisible. Although dark matter is evident in many astrophysical and cosmological observations, its particle physics remains unclear.
According to a convincing hypothesis, dark matter consists of very light axons that interact weakly with ordinary matter. They are so far hypothetical elementary particles with low mass. Within a strong electromagnetic field, the hypothesis suggests, actions can be converted into electromagnetic waves and vice versa. In theory, there is every indication that axions are candidates for dark matter. However, their existence has not yet been proven by experiment.
Quantum-based haloscopes Search for stocks
The European DarkQuantum project searches for stocks and aims to prove their existence. Professor Wolfgang Wernsdorfer from KIT’s Physikalisches Institut (PHI) is one of the leading researchers in the project, which is funded by the European Research Council with a Synergy Grant.
“The nature of quantum phenomena is one of the big, unsolved and therefore particularly fascinating questions in research. I am pleased that Wolfgang Wernsdorfer and his colleagues in Germany and abroad have jointly been able to acquire one of the prestigious ERC Synergy Grants,” says Professor Oliver Kraft, Acting President of KIT.
DarkQuantum uses quantum technology and combines it with particle physics infrastructures at CERN and at DESY to detect actions in the galactic halo, which is the outer part of the Milky Way. Superconducting qubits enable the design of instruments that are extremely sensitive to small amounts of electromagnetic radiation, with much lower background noise than conventional technologies. The plan is to build two quantum-based haloscopes. These sensors will be able to detect actions through their interaction with electromagnetic fields with unprecedented sensitivity and range.
Evidence would profoundly change our understanding of reality
“The Axion haloscopes are equipped with a cooled vacuum chamber in which a strong magnetic field is generated. In this cavity, actions must be converted into photons. The resulting oscillations in the electromagnetic field can be detected by very sensitive detectors,” explains Professor Wernsdorfer.
The construction of quantum-based instruments for particle physics requires close collaboration between experts from very different fields of physics, from ultra-low temperature cryogenics to quantum circuits and particle physics.
“If the DarkQuantum project’s new strategies succeed in proving actions experimentally, this would be a breakthrough in physics that would have a fundamental impact on our understanding of reality,” says Wolfgang Wernsdorfer.
A total of eight European universities and research institutes are involved in the DarkQuantum project. Universidad de Zaragoza/Spain acts as coordinator; the leading researchers come from there as well as from KIT, the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France and the University of Aalto in Finland. The project is designed to run for six years. The funding amounts to 12.9 million euros, of which KIT receives around two million.