Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy
Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

A Giant Step Forward in the Quest for Dark Matter

Posted On: February 27, 2017

  • Prof. Tony Noble in his lab.

    Dr. Tony Noble (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) is the Canadian principal investigator of the PICO collaboration.  (Photo: Queen's Gazette)

  • PICO detector

    The PICO-60 experiment, surrounded by various sensors, designed to detect possible interactions between dark matter and a target fluid. (Photo credit: SNOLAB)

The PICO Collaboration, co-led by Prof. Tony Noble of the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy, has found new exciting results from the operation of the PICO-60 dark matter detector which is a bubble chamber filled with 52kg of C3F8 located in the SNOLAB underground laboratory in Sudbury, Ontario. The results produced show new direct-detection constraints on the existence of WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles) – a type of subatomic particle believed to be a leading contender in the search for dark matter.

We are extremely excited about these results. Not only have we established a new world-leading limit for dark matter interactions, but we have also demonstrated that with sufficient controls the bubble chamber technology can be run free of backgrounds that could mimic the signal. This bodes very well for the future as the collaboration is poised to launch a new tonne scale detector based on this technology. This new detector, dubbed PICO 500, will have an order of magnitude greater physics capability and will explore a vast swathe of the parameter space predicted by dark matter theories.“ —Dr. Noble, Canadian principal investigator on the PICO project

The publication, Dark Matter Search Results from the PICO-60 C3F8 Bubble Chamber, is available for peer review at arXiv.

Queen’s researchers have long been at the cutting edge of discoveries in the field of particle astrophysics. This finding by the PICO experiment continues to reflect that leadership and represents a tremendous leap forward in the hunt for the most elusive matter in our universe. — Dr. John Fisher, Acting Vice-Principal (Research)

For more information, visit the Queen's Gazette.