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How The Large Underground Xenon Detector Finds Dark Matter

posted 5 Mar 2013, 05:11 by Mpelembe   [ updated 5 Mar 2013, 05:13 ]

Next Media - The Large Underground Xenon Detector is a two-phase liquid xenon detector designed to pick up dark matter particles.

The Large Underground Xenon detector, or LUX, is located about a mile underground. Its outer tank is filled with purified water to keep unwanted radioactive particles from interfering with the experiment.

The LUX is filled with 772 pounds of liquid xenon, which is chilled to minus 700 degrees Fahrenheit through the thermosyphon, the device that chills the Xenon gas. Photomultiplier tubes at the top and bottom of the tank detect tiny amounts of light generated in dark matter collisions.

A collision between a dark matter particle and a xenon atom would start a chain reaction of collisions that would shoot loose electrons and faint bursts of light toward detectors in the tank.

An electric field pulls the electrons to the top of the detector into a xenon gas cloud, where a second flash should be picked up.

If the flash occurs near the center of the tank, the source is likely dark matter. If theflash is not in the center, the source is not likely to be dark matter.

SOURCES: The Plain DealerThe Columbus Dispatch, Wikipedia