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Dark Matter Down Under? Scientists are Looking for Mysterious Matter in Australian Gold Mine

Dec 28, 2016 11:10 AM EST
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Gold mine
A high-tech laboratory located one kilometer underground will be used in an attempt to detect the never-seen-before elusive dark matter.
(Photo : Luc Forsyth/Getty Images)

A high-tech laboratory located one kilometer underground will be used in an attempt to detect the never-before-seen elusive dark matter.

At the pitch-black Stawell gold mine, cosmic rays won't be able to come in and interfere with the supersensitive test equipment that researchers are using to find the mysterious matter.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and Adelaide will work together for the ambitious project, which will commence in 2017. In an interview with Herald Sun, University of Adelaide's Anthony Williams said the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL) would be a 20- to 30-minute drive from the surface.

"We are going deep underground to get rid of those annoying cosmic rays," Williams said.

Another researcher, in the name of Professor Geoffrey Taylor, a physicist from the University of Melbourne, said another important feature of the Australian mine is that the activity there is slowing down.

"Deep mining has ceased and they're re-mining some of the material further to the surface so it makes sense to make use of this while the mining company is there and the deep areas are available to us," Taylor told ABC.

So how exactly will they know if they already have found the dark matter? The laboratory will have highly sensitive detector --- the SABRE (Sodium-iodide with Active Background REjection) detector --- an "incredibly pure" crystal of sodium iodide, which will emit a flash of light once a dark matter touches the nucleus of one of its atoms.

The SUPL, Southern Hemisphere's first underground particle physics laboratory, is perfect experiment if we want to eliminate the effect of seasonal changes.

According to The Conversation, SUPL will be housed in a 10-meter-wide, 35-meter-long void that will be wrung into the rock. It will be reinforced with dozens of long bolts penetrating deep into the surrounding rock, and the walls will have a thick layer of shotcrete sprayed for further stability.

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