Science and Engineering

University of California, Berkeley

Holger Müller, Dmitri Budker, Karl van Bibber, Justin Khoury, Paul Steinhardt
Berkeley, CA
$1,000,000
June 2017

 

Dark matter and dark energy together make up 95% of the universe, though virtually all details about this “dark sector” remain a mystery.  While heavy particles that might make up the dark sector are being searched with great effort, a family of new, well-motivated theories is urging us to search for light particles.  A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University will construct an atom interferometer in which the control over systematic effects and noise sources has been taken to the extreme, in part by using a large, high-power laser beam, to search the light dark sector in three ways: (i) looking for fifth forces between atoms and macroscopic test masses which are hidden by coupling only to surfaces of objects, which would be a manifestation of dark energy, (ii) measuring fundamental constants such as the fine structure constant, which can unveil evidence for “dark photons,” and (iii) looking for oscillating accelerations on rubidium atoms, which are signals for several candidates of dark matter.  These experiments are designed to exceed the sensitivities of existing approaches by several orders of magnitude, including some undertaken at large accelerator laboratories.  They will conclusively test the theories in question, either discovering a dark-sector particle or ruling out the theories.  A successful project will open up new paths in dark-sector research based on laboratory atom interferometers.

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