The SABRE experiment
Dark matter makes up around 80% of the matter in the universe – we know its there because of the way it acts in the cosmos, and it’s what holds most of our galaxies together, but scientists have yet to discover dark matter particles. For more than a decade an experiment in Italy has observed a signal that could well be dark matter. In order to confirm these results an experiment needs to be placed in the southern hemisphere – this is where the SABRE experiment comes in. Two SABRE detectors will be built, one placed at the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy, and one here at SUPL in Stawell. If both experiments deliver the same result we know that we will have discovered dark matter and that will be ground breaking.
Why deep underground?
These kinds of experiments are incredibly sensitive and need to be shielded from the cosmic radiation that bombards us every day. The SABRE detector consists of ultra-pure sodium iodide crystals. These detector crystals are currently being grown at Princeton University in the USA and are key to the experiment. When the nucleus of a crystal is hit by a dark matter particle it recoils and emits light, this light is detected and recorded.
The SABRE collaboration consists of scientists from 11 universities located all over the world. The Universities of Melbourne, Swinburne, Adelaide and Australian National University make up the southern hemisphere collaboration, led by Professor Elisabetta Barberio.
Image credit: Swinburne University of Technology