Searching for the Invisible: The Quest for Dark Matter

Dark matter, a mysterious substance that permeates our universe, continues to challenge scientists in their quest for knowledge. Unlike normal matter, dark matter does not emit light or any other form of electromagnetic radiation, making it invisible and difficult to study. Although its influence is evident in various astrophysical and cosmological observations, the nature of dark matter remains unclear. However, according to a compelling hypothesis, dark matter is composed of axions – lightweight particles that weakly interact with ordinary matter. While the existence of axions is theoretical, proving their presence through experimentation has become the focus of the groundbreaking DarkQuantum project.

Led by Professor Wolfgang Wernsdorfer from the Physikalisches Institut (PHI) at KIT, the DarkQuantum project seeks to detect axions and provide concrete evidence for their existence. Supported by a Synergy Grant from the European Research Council, this European collaborative effort combines quantum technology with particle physics resources available at CERN and DESY. By utilizing superconducting qubits, DarkQuantum aims to construct two quantum-based haloscopes capable of identifying axions within the galactic halo, the outer region of the Milky Way.

Quantum-based instruments possess unrivaled sensitivity to minute amounts of electromagnetic radiation and offer a significantly lower background noise compared to conventional technologies. The proposed haloscopes feature a cooled vacuum chamber that generates a powerful magnetic field. Within this cavity, axions are expected to convert into photons, resulting in detectable oscillations in the electromagnetic field. Highly sensitive detectors will record these oscillations, providing the much-awaited experimental proof of axions.

The construction of these advanced instruments necessitates interdisciplinary collaboration among experts from diverse fields, including ultra-low temperature cryogenics, quantum circuits, and particle physics. The cooperation of these experts from various European universities and research institutes is crucial to the success of the DarkQuantum project. With the Universidad de Zaragoza acting as the coordinator, and contributions from KIT, CNRS, and the University of Aalto, this ambitious endeavor is set to run for six years.

A breakthrough in proving the existence of axions would profoundly revolutionize physics, with far-reaching implications for our understanding of reality. The DarkQuantum project’s innovative strategies offer an exciting glimpse into the potential future of particle physics and the exploration of the invisible forces shaping our universe.


Q: What is dark matter?

Dark matter refers to a mysterious substance that cannot be directly observed as it does not emit any light or electromagnetic radiation. It exerts gravitational forces on visible matter and plays a significant role in the structure and evolution of the universe.

Q: What are axions?

Axions are hypothetical elementary particles with low mass that are considered potential candidates for dark matter. They are believed to interact weakly with ordinary matter and possess the ability to convert to and from electromagnetic waves in the presence of a strong electromagnetic field.

Q: How does the DarkQuantum project search for axions?

DarkQuantum combines quantum technology with particle physics infrastructures to build quantum-based haloscopes. These instruments utilize superconducting qubits and highly sensitive detectors to detect oscillations in the electromagnetic field caused by axions converting into photons. The project aims to provide experimental proof of the existence of axions.