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$770,500 NSF Grant for Dark Matter Research

Sep 17, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant of $770,521 to Indiana University South Bend to support the dark matter research of Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ilan Levine. The grant supports the project called MRI Consortium: Development of Instrumentation for the PICO-500 Bubble Chamber.

Dr. Levine and his collaborators have received a series of NSF grants over the years supporting their search for dark matter. Levine uses IU South Bend students to help in the research, much of which is done on campus including designing and fabricating the 16 sensor acoustic system, the fast pressure-rise system, the 50 sensor temperature measurement system, and the data acquisition systems.? Since 2004, 47 IU South Bend undergraduates, six area high school science teachers, and eight area high school students have worked on the project.

When completed in 2020, the PICO-500 will be the world’s most sensitive spin-dependent dark matter detector. It uses fluid in a superheated state so that a dark matter particle interaction with a fluorine nucleus causes the fluid to boil and creates a telltale bubble in the chamber. Digital cameras record the images of the bubbles. Acoustic pickups, designed and fabricated at IU South Bend, are used to distinguish between dark matter particles and other sources when analyzing the data.

Levine and IU South Bend are part of the PICO Collaboration that uses bubble chambers and superheated fluid to search for dark matter. The PICO bubble chambers are made insensitive to electromagnetic interactions by tuning the operating temperatures of the experiment. The alpha decays are discriminated from dark matter interactions by their sound signal, making these detectors powerful tools.

The 16 participating that comprise PICO are Indiana University South Bend; University of Alberta; University of Chicago; Czech Technical University; Fermilab; Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics; Laurentian University; Universite de Montreal; Northwestern University; Universidad Nacinal Autonoma di Mexico; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Queen’s University at Kingston; Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, India; SNOLAB; Universitat Politecnica de Valencia;

Levine has been teaching and doing research at IU South Bend since 2002. He has a Bachelor degree in Physics from Yale University and a Master and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Purdue University.


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