Shedding Light on “Dark Matter”
Dark matter. This invisible substance has challenged researchers for decades. Since the 1930s, numerous astronomical and astrophysical observations and measurements have strongly hinted at the presence of a large mass of unseen matter in our universe.
Gilles Gerbier, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics, wants to illuminate some of the mysteries surrounding this enigmatic substance.
Most scientists now agree that “dark matter”—roughly six times greater than the total amount of known matter in the universe—likely consists of new elementary particles. Harmlessly crossing paths with normal matter most of the time, on rare occasions dark matter particles interact with individual atoms. This happens so infrequently and the resulting reaction is so weak that, in order to observe them, researchers need to go deep underground to avoid outside interference.
Based at Queen’s University’s SNOLAB—located two kilometers underground, and one of the world’s premier underground research facilities—Gerbier will pursue a research program focusing on two core goals: to strengthen Canada’s presence in an ambitious North-American-European joint partnership searching for low-mass dark matter particles, and to facilitate knowledge‑sharing and transfer of expertise between European and Canadian researchers.
Gerbier also aims to develop, build, operate and explore the industrial and technological applications of a unique gaseous spherical detector at SNOLAB. Once complete, it will be the first of its kind capable of detecting extremely tiny impacts from very light dark matter particles. A final aspect of the research program will be exploring the potential industrial applications offered by this new type technology.