Scientists at the Center for Axion and Precision Physics Research (CAPP), within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) optimized some of the characteristics of the magnet to hunt for one possible component of dark matter called axion.
Although it sounds hard to believe, everything we see with our naked eyes or through microscopes and telescopes accounts for just 4% of the known Universe. The rest comprises dark energy (69%) and dark matter (27%). Although there seems to be more dark matter than visible matter in the Universe, we still have not been able to directly detect it. The reason is that dark matter does not emit light or absorb electromagnetic waves, so it is really hard to observe.
Artistic impression of the Milky Way galaxy with the mysterious dark matter halo shown in blue, but actually invisible.
Although dark matter particles have not been detected so far, scientists know that these particles have a very small mass and are distributed throughout the Universe. One dark matter particle candidate is the axion. Axions have extremely weak interactions with matter and so scientists need special equipment to catch their presence. Specifically, scientists use the so-called axion to two-photons coupling technique, which takes advantage of the fact that an axion passing through a strong magnetic field can interact with a photon and convert into another photon. To record this interaction, IBS scientists are in the process of building haloscopes in Daejeon in South Korea.
Haloscopes contain resonant cavities immersed in extra-strong magnetic field. “In simple terms, you can image the resonant cavity as a cylinder, like a soft drink can, where the energy of the photons generated from the axions-photons interaction is amplified,” explains KO Byeong Rok, first author of this study.
The magnets used for these types of experiments so far have the shape of a coil wound into a helix, technically known as a solenoid. However, depending on the height of the magnet, there is the risk of losing the signal coming from the axion-photon interaction. For this reason, IBS scientists decided to look deeper into another type of magnets shaped like donuts, called toroidal magnets.
“Magnets are the most important feature of the haloscope, and also the most expensive. While other experiments seeking to detect dark matter around the world use solenoid magnets, we are the first to try to use toroidal magnets. Since it has never been used before, you cannot easily buy the equipment, so we develop it ourselves,” explains Professor Ko.
Scientists at IBS CAPP are prototyping haloscopes – machines that hunt for dark matter. Haloscope have very strong magnets. Helix-shaped magnets (solenoid magnets, on the left) are commonly used in dark matter experiments. CAPP scientists are also investigating the possibility of using donut-shaped magnets, technically known as toroidal magnets, and nicknamed this device “CAPPuccino submarine”.
This paper from IBS shows the opposite. Starting from an adjusted version of the Maxwell equation, which defines how charged particles give rise to electric and magnetic forces. Scientists found that electric energy and magnetic energy from the axion-photon interaction are equal in both types of magnets. Therefore, even though the magnetic energy of a toroidal magnet is unknown, in order to obtain the electromagnetic energy which is the sum of the two, it is possible to double up the electric energy and obtain the magnetic energy.
Another finding is that the energy emitted from the interaction and conversion of the axion to photon is independent from the position of the cavity inside a solenoid magnet. However, this is not the case for toroid magnets.
IBS CAPP scientists have nicknamed the toroidal cavity “CAPPuccino submarine” because its color resembles the beverage, and its particular shape. All the theoretical findings published in this paper are going to form a solid background for the development and prototyping of new machines for the search of dark matter.
Contacts and sources:
Institute for Basic Science
Citation: B. R. Ko, H. Themann, W. Jang, J. Choi, D. Kim, M. J. Lee, J. Lee, E. Won, and Y. K. Semertzidis. Electric and magnetic energy at axion haloscopes. Phys. Rev. D 94, 111702(R). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.94.111702
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