The idea behind LUX-ZEPLIN is that when a dark matter particle flies into the detector and hits a xenon atom, the atom will shake. This shaking creates a burst of light that’s picked up by sensors at the top and bottom of the detector. The shaking will also liberate electrons, which drift to the top of the liquid, cross into a layer of gas and create another burst of light. From this combination of signals, scientists will be able to pinpoint the spot in the detector where the dark matter collision happened. It’s kind of like listening for the thunderclap after a lightning strike to tell how far away the lightning is. SLAC is assembling a detector prototype and purifying liquid xenon for the experiment.

To be directed to LUX-ZEPLIN's website click HERE.

What is Dark Matter?

Weaving the Search for Dark Matter

Based on measurements of ancient radiation left over from the Big Bang, scientists know that ordinary matter – the stuff that makes up you, me, and all of the observable stars and galaxies – accounts for only about 5% of the total energy in the universe.

About 70% of the cosmos consists of dark energy, which is accelerating the expansion of the universe, and the rest – about 25% – is dark matter, which rarely interacts with ordinary matter. Scientists know that dark matter exists because it affects the rotation of galaxies and bends the path of light. Most researchers think it’s made of yet-to-be-discovered particles. Here at SLAC, we’re working to design the LUX-ZEPLIN experiment, which will hopefully help us directly detect this particle.

Did you know? The LZ experiment contains 10 tons of liquid xenon! Some xenon facts: 

•  The xenon that goes into LZ has to be purified to reduce krypton contamination down to a level of 15 parts per quadrillion! (The xenon starts out with about 15 parts per billion of krypton, so that’s a reduction of a millionth in the level of krypton.)

  •  Xenon makes up 0.0000087% of the air we breathe and is obtained by extracting it from the air.           

  •  Other uses for xenon include light sources (xenon lamps), lasers, satellite and rocket propulsion, creating silicon microprocessors, and even making drugs to treat cancer. 

Public Lecture | A Sparkle in the Dark: The Outlandish Quest for Dark Matter

Public Lecture | A Sparkle in the Dark: The Outlandish Quest for Dark Matter

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