(Santa Barbara, Calif.) — The great thing about pure liquid xenon? It’s so dense that enough of it will create an environment so isolated from the rest of the world it could capture signs of dark matter — the elusive material we’ve never seen, yet is said to comprise the majority of the Universe.
That’s according to UC Santa Barbara experimental high energy physicist Hugh Lippincott, who said, “You can get a lot of (liquid xenon) in a small volume, which is nice, because the more mass you have, the more sensitivity.”
“The name of the game is to knock down background noise,” Lippincott explained, of dark matter direct detection experiments like those that are his specialty. Liquid xenon shields itself well from outside radiation, while on the inside it has good signal properties — ideal for exposing weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) that are thought to constitute dark matter. Several enormous vats of liquid xenon are tucked deep into the earth around the globe in a number of different direct detection experiments, waiting for the rare moment a WIMP bangs into something.