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New approaches to dark matter detection


Decades of searching for theoretically motivated dark matter candidates have yielded no results, so the research community is starting to adopt different strategies for detecting dark matter. Seven scientists discuss these new approaches.

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Fig. 1: The mass/energy range in which dark matter could be found is enormous, spanning from zeV (1021 eV) to well over PeV (1015 eV).

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Yonit Hochberg is an associate professor at the Racah Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research focuses on theoretical particle physics, with emphasis on new ideas for the particle identity of dark matter, along with avant-garde concepts for its detection in the laboratory. She has been named a Wolf Fellow, Chorafas Fellow, Rothschild Fellow, LHC Theory Initiative Fellow and Azrieli Fellow; has won the Israel National Women in Science Award, the Krill Prize and the Bekenstein Prize; and is an elected member of the Israel Young Academy of Science.

Yonatan (Yoni) Kahn is a theoretical physicist and assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and core faculty at the Illinois Center for Advanced Study of the Universe. His research is focused on dark matter and its detection strategies. Yoni pursues a highly interdisciplinary approach, collaborating with particle experimentalists, condensed matter experimentalists and theorists, materials scientists, chemists and quantum science experts to develop new experiments to discover dark matter.

Rebecca Leane is an associate staff scientist in the Particle Theory Group at SLAC, and a Senior Member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at SLAC and Stanford University. Rebecca’s research leverages the interplay of theoretical particle physics and astrophysics to investigate the fundamental nature of dark matter, and other Beyond the Standard Model physics. She identifies new search strategies for dark matter in astrophysical systems, and executes these searches using new theoretical calculations and the latest astrophysical datasets.

Surjeet Rajendran is an associate professor of physics at the Johns Hopkins University. He has invented new experimental methods to detect gravitational waves, dark matter and dark energy which are being implemented by many laboratories around the world. He has also developed theoretical tools to solve outstanding problems in particle physics, such as the hierarchy and vacuum energy problems via cosmological evolution. His recent theoretical interests have been in identifying new gravitational phenomena within General Relativity and developing consistent and testable modifications of quantum mechanics. Surjeet has been awarded the Sloan Fellowship and the 2017 New Horizons in Physics Prize, and is a Simons Investigator.

Ken Van Tilburg is an assistant professor in physics at New York University and an associate research scientist in the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute. His research interests cover a broad range of subjects in particle physics phenomenology and theory, interfacing between precision experimental physics, astrophysics and cosmology. The primary aim of his research is to develop new experimental and observational methods and theoretical approaches in the search for physics Beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. He has pioneered several techniques to search for weakly coupled phenomena — including dark matter — in the laboratory, at the precision frontier of atomic, molecular, optical and electromechanical physics.

Tien-Tien Yu is an associate professor of physics and member of the Institute for Fundamental Science at the University of Oregon. She is a theoretical particle physicist interested in Beyond the Standard Model physics and is primarily focused on understanding the nature of dark matter. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award and shared the 2021 New Horizons in Physics Prize for her work on the detection of sub-GeV dark matter.

Kathryn Zurek is a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech and a Simons Investigator. She is interested in how to use theoretical and experimental probes to understand the nature of dark matter and, more recently, also in observational signatures of holographic theories of quantum gravity. Kathryn developed the hidden valley models and established techniques to build models of natural low-mass hidden dark matter sector. She investigates connections between these theories and experimental physics at the Large Hadron Collider and astrophysical objects such as neutron stars and white dwarves. Kathryn is a fellow of the American Physical Society.

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Correspondence to Yonit Hochberg, Yonatan F. Kahn, Rebecca K. Leane, Surjeet Rajendran, Ken Van Tilburg, Tien-Tien Yu or Kathryn M. Zurek.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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All authors contributed equally to the preparation of this manuscript.

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Hochberg, Y., Kahn, Y.F., Leane, R.K. et al. New approaches to dark matter detection. Nat Rev Phys 4, 637–641 (2022).

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