First Results from the XENON100 Dark Matter Search
The XENON100 Experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS) in Italy is currently the most sensitive experiment for the search of Dark Matter. A publication in Physical Review Letters -- PRL 105, 131302 (2010) -- shows the currently best upper limit for interactions of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) with regular matter. This first result of XENON100 is based on only 11 days of data. A Viewpoint article highlights this result and provides context on the status of Dark Matter searches.
The XENON program aims at detecting Dark Matter in the laboratory. An array of astrophysical observations provides ample evidence for its existence. The data indicate that about 85% of all matter in the universe consists of Dark Matter, the nature of which remains unknown. All the matter that we are familiar with and consist of makes up only a fraction of the mass and energy budget of the universe. Hence, the exotic matter is us!
The XENON group of Prof. U. Oberlack, who recently moved from Rice University in Houston to the ETAP group at the Institute of Physics in Mainz, contributed significantly to design, building, and analysis of the experiment. Meanwhile, the collaboration is working on the analysis of a much greater amount of data, which will improve the sensitivity in the search for the invisible WIMP by another order of magnitude. There are possibilities for diploma and Ph.D. thesis subjects on XENON100 and in research and development for an already planned successor experiment.
XENON100 Time Projection Chamber during Assembly