July 23, 2016

"For something that's hypothesised to make up more than 80 percent of the mass of the entire Universe, it's no easy thing to detect the existence of dark matter."

Science Alert: That's the conclusion the world is coming to today, after scientists announced that a massive $10 million experiment to find traces of elusive dark matter particles had failed after an exhaustive 20-month search. by PETER DOCKRILL

'"We've probed previously unexplored regions of parameter space with the aim of making the first definitive discovery of dark matter," said physicist Cham Ghag from University College London in the UK, one of the scientists who took part in the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) project based in South Dakota.

'"Though a positive signal would have been welcome, nature was not so kind! Nonetheless, a null result is significant as it changes the landscape of the field by constraining models for what dark matter could be beyond anything that existed previously."

'But where LUX failed, others will continue. The experiment's successor – LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) – will take over in the same grounds of the Sanford Underground Research Facility, this time with a far greater amount of liquid xenon (9 metric tonnes, 10 ton), and a bigger budget of $50 million, which is expected to produce a detector 70 times more sensitive than LUX.

'The new experiment is scheduled to begin in 2020, and it now looks to be our best chance yet of finally getting our scientific mitts on these ghost particles – alongside ongoing efforts elsewhere, including at the Large Hadron Collider.'

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