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Designing a better atom interferometer for dark matter detection

JAN 26, 2024
Detectors capable of sensing the multiple ways dark matter interacts with atoms could provide more insight into its mysterious makeup.
Designing a better atom interferometer for dark matter detection internal name

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Physicists have spent decades hunting for dark matter, ruling out many possible candidates and exploring increasingly hypothetical options outside the Standard Model. Advanced experimental techniques will be needed to make the required observations, and a detailed understanding of the potential interactions is essential to interpret the results.

Derr and Giese analyzed the effects of dark matter interactions on atom interferometers, a potential tool for sensing scalar, ultralight dark matter candidates. They determined the effects of dark matter on both center-of-mass motion and internal atomic structure and discussed the implications for future detectors.

“For the first time, we distinguished between the mean coupling of dark matter to both internal states, which reflects itself in a coupling to the center-of-mass motion, and the differential coupling, which reflects itself in the internal structure,” said author Daniel Derr. “Since both the atom-light coupling and the motion of the atoms are probed by the interferometer, we find a signature of both effects in the signal.”

This result has implications for the most effective dark matter detectors. Some atom interferometers are based on single-photon transitions and both the internal and center-of-mass effects will manifest in their interference patterns. Other interferometers, however, are based on Bragg diffraction and are only susceptible to the latter.

The authors look forward to future explorations of potential detector designs.

“It is exciting to work in a field where there is a radical change from table-top experiments towards large-scale detectors, which gives rise to unprecedented opportunities for fundamental physics but also highlights the challenges of new technologies,” said Derr.

Source: “Clock transitions versus bragg diffraction in atom-interferometric dark-matter detection,” by Daniel Derr and Enno Giese, AVS Quantum Science (2023). The article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1116/5.0176666 .

This paper is part of the Large Scale Quantum Detectors Collection, learn more here .

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