Crystals aim to light up dark matter

German scientists hunting dark matter are set to produce half a tonne of high-purity calcium tungstate for their detectors, one 1kg crystal at a time. The CRESST-II experiment based in Gran Sasso, Italy is currently seeking this enigmatic substance, thought to explain the universe’s structure, with 10kg of calcium tungstate (CaWO4). Now Andreas Erb and Jean-Côme Lanfranchi are preparing crystals for its larger successor EURECA, which will begin operation in the French Alps in 5–10 years.

Gravitational effects suggest as-yet-unobserved dark matter in the universe outnumbers more familiar atomic matter four to one. Erb, Lanfranchi and their colleagues are hunting leading theoretical candidates, Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). That name reflects their size – up to a lead atom’s mass – and the limited interaction with atomic matter that makes them hard to find, or ‘dark’. ‘They have to interact weakly to agree with the matter needed,’ says Richard Gaitskell from Brown University in the US, who isn’t involved in the calcium tungstate experiments.

Calcium tungstate crystals, formed at around 1600°C, can be used to detect dark matter © Andreas Heddergott/TU Munich

 To read the full article please visit Chemistry World.

Growth of High-Purity Scintillating CaWO4 Single Crystals for the Low-Temperature Direct Dark Matter Search Experiments CRESSTII and EURECA
Andreas Erb
CrystEngComm, 2013, Accepted Manuscript
DOI: 10.1039/C2CE26554K

 

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