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An overview of research on dark matter

STFC In laboratories, observatories and colliders around the world, the global hunt is on for dark matter.

The UK is at the forefront of the search for this elusive substance. Scientists hunt dark matter in three main ways: Many experts believe that dark matter is composed of one or more types of exotic particle, frequently referred to as weakly interacting massive particles WIMPs. Direct detection refers to the hunt for these particles coming from space.

Astrophysics > High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena

Because these elusive particles hardly ever interact with our matter, researchers hope to see their interactions with the atoms contained in massive detectors, deep underground where they are shielded from cosmic rays.

Indirect detection studies explore separate cosmic phenomena that could be linked to the existence of dark matter. Finally, collider experiments seek to uncover the existence of dark matter by producing their own dark matter particles in the laboratory through very energetic collisions. A huge variety of dark matter research is taking place all around the world and the UK has long been a leader in this work. In the late 1980s, UK astronomers Professors Carlos Frenk, Simon White and George Efstathiou, with a US colleague, published a pioneering group of papers on the role of cold dark matter in the formation of the structure of the universe.

This is no different now.

What We Study

With a proud legacy in the field and collaborations with experts around the globe, UK research is world-leading in both its scope and achievements. LZ was born out of an international collaboration that brought together 30 institutes around the world, including the UK, US, Portugal and Russia.

  • Direct detection refers to the hunt for these particles coming from space;
  • The collider-based and direct detection-based approaches to dark matter complement one another perfectly;
  • But when physicists tried to calculate how much energy this would give empty space, the answer came out wrong - wrong by a lot;
  • So the expansion of the universe has not been slowing due to gravity, as everyone thought, it has been accelerating.

The UK arm of the collaboration includes approximately 50 researchers from nine UK institutes and is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. This pioneering project combines expertise from two of the most significant dark matter experiments to date: UK groups were, and still are, very active in LUX and contributed heavily to the world-leading results over the last 4 years.


Meanwhile, Zeplin was a series of pioneering experiments that took place at Boulby Underground Laboratory in Cleveland, UK, informing future techniques for dark matter detection. Using xenon as a target material in dark matter detectors makes them more sensitive, and this technique that now dominates the field.

Zeplin concluded in 2011, but the expertise has now been transported over to LZ for the next generation of dark matter studies. The system has already begun operations, and first results are expected in February 2018.

Dark Matter Research: A UK Overview

This collaboration brings together 20 different institutions from Europe and North America, with the UK contribution led by Durham University, whose researchers have supported the development of SuperCDMS by helping to refine experimental setup and data analysis.

Large Hadron Collider LHC Whilst many dark matter experiments are currently focused on direct detection of galactic WIMPs, particle colliders also have a vital role to play in the hunt for this elusive substance.

One theory which is popular with theorists is Supersymmetry SUSY — this could provide a natural explanation of what the dark matter particles are; and it is hoped that these as-yet hypothetical particles could be produced in proton collisions in the LHC.

The Large Hadron Collider is home to two huge detectors currently engaged in the search for dark matter: The CMS an overview of research on dark matter is made up of approximately 200 institutes in 40 countries.

The UK built and operates several subsystems including the trigger system, which identifies collision events that might contain dark matter particles. The collider-based and direct detection-based approaches to dark matter complement one another perfectly. Together, these communities can study the problem from different angles, providing a more comprehensive approach to dark matter detection.

Mysterious Universe: An Introduction to Dark Matter

Image from Pixabay The Hunt Continues The search for dark matter is a joint effort by cosmologists, astrophysicists, theorists, astronomers and particle physicists — all disciplines in which the UK is a world leader. STFC works closely with the Dark Matter UK Consortium DM-UK of research scientists to promote communication and collaboration within the research community and to spearhead campaigns that engage the public with dark matter and the unseen universe.

An Overview of Dark Matter Experiments at Jefferson Lab

The UK is at the forefront of efforts to find dark matter, collaborating with researchers from all over the world. Dark matter may be elusive, but with the weight of UK research behind it, dark matter is running out of places to hide. Want to learn more about dark matter?