The discovery of dark matter as a quantum crystal could help to address one of science’s biggest riddles.
Researchers working on the search for the universe’s most elusive material may be on the verge of a huge breakthrough.
Dark matter makes up nearly a quarter of all matter in the cosmos, yet scientists have never seen or identified it. Scientists know dark matter exists because they can see its gravitational effects on spinning galaxies, but the world’s most sensitive equipment have yet to detect it. However, owing to a group of researchers who developed a quantum crystal capable of detecting even the tiniest electromagnetic fields, this might all change.
The discovery could one day aid scientists in understanding the nature of dark matter and solving one of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
The quantum crystal was made by utilizing magnetic fields to capture 150 charged beryllium ions at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States.
The magnetic fields helped the ions overcome their natural repulsion, allowing them to form a structure twice the thickness of a human hair.
The final arrangement took the shape of a crystal and, more critically, vibrated when influenced by an external force.
“When you stimulate atoms, they don’t move individually,” Ana Maria Rey, a physicist at the JILA research institution in Colorado, told Live Science. They move in unison.”
The movements of the quantum crystal, according to the researchers, might be utilized to detect the strength of an electromagnetic field.
Many hypotheses about the nature of black matter have been proposed, including theories involving undetectable black holes and gravity seeping from another dimension.
However, one of the most common theories is that dark matter is a yet-to-be-discovered particle, which CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is attempting to prove.
However, before the quantum crystal could be used in the quest for dark matter, the researchers had to work around a major quantum mechanics oddity.
Scientists can’t exactly measure the position and momentum of particles because of the so-called Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
The more precisely a particle’s position is determined, the less certain its momentum is, and vice versa.
The JILA scientists got past this obstacle by employing a strange phenomenon known as quantum entanglement, in which the states of two or more items are linked even if they are physically separated.