Fermilab, University of Chicago

April 12, 2021

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Chicago have demonstrated a new technique based on quantum technology that will advance the search for dark matter, the invisible stuff that accounts for 85% of all matter in the universe.

The collaboration has developed superconducting versions of devices called qubits that will be able to detect the weak signals emitted by two kinds of hypothetical subatomic particles that could reside in an invisible but ubiquitous part of the universe called the dark sector. One is called an axion, a leading dark matter candidate. The other is called a hidden photon, a particle that possibly interacts with the photons — particles of light — of the visible universe.

The technique now demonstrated by the Fermilab-University of Chicago team is 36 times more sensitive to the particles than the quantum limit, a benchmark of conventional quantum measurements, enabling searches for dark matter to proceed 1,000 times faster.

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