Dark Matter Search With Optomechanical Accelerometers

Scientists have begun to wonder if they are looking for the correct type of dark matter. Traditional particle physics experiments are looking for much heavier proportions. Now, researchers have repurposed existing tabletop sensor technology to look for the particles that might make up the dark matter.

There is a possibility – dark photons may constitute dark matter. They may exert a weak oscillating force on ordinary matter, causing particles to move back and forth. It is hard to measure this movement. The researchers think they can overcome this obstacle by using optomechanical accelerometers as sensors to detect and amplify this oscillation.

If the force is material-dependent, the researchers can use two objects of different materials. They can measure the difference in acceleration between the two materials. Their experimental setup consists of a silicon nitride membrane and a fixed beryllium mirror (to reflect light). The reflection would indicate that dark photons were present since the two materials have different properties.

This latest work, reported last summer, builds on previously published research by the collaborating teams. The paper demonstrated that several existing and near-term laboratory-scale devices are sensitive enough to detect or rule out possible ultralight dark matter particles.

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