Denver Post Features Alton Research Collaboration

The composition of "Dark Matter," which comprises roughly 25 percent of the known universe, remains one of the largest unsolved problems in science. 

Augustana College undergraduates, along with Associate Professor of Physics Dr. Andrew Alton, are hoping to detect the elusive dark matter using a large detector, located deep underground where it is shielded from cosmic rays and other competing processes. Building this detector has taken Augustana students to Princeton University, Fermi National Laboratory in Illinois, Italy and Colorado. 

A recent article in the Denver Post describes part of this journey and gives insight into the complexities of a large collaborative project such as the DarkSide 50 experiment. Read the complete article.

Colorado Argon Will Be at the Heart of Dark Matter Experiment
By Nancy Lofholm, The Denver Post

CORTEZ — In a sand-colored metal building in remote southwest Colorado, the quest to unravel one of the most perplexing questions about the nature of the universe looks like this: a bedroom-sized tangle of pipes, gauges, wires and cylinders along with two computers, a stepladder, a big fan and several crates of canary yellow tanks.

This is a no-frills, low-thrill but very important part of a potentially universe-shaking project called Darkside-50.

Read the complete article.

Recent graduates Tom Alexander '11, Hannah Rogers '12 and David Swanson '12 have worked with Alton and collaborators from Princeton and FermiLab on the Argon purification problem described in the Post article. Alexander and Rogers measured the argon concentration of the gas that was shipped from Cortez, and Swanson worked on compressing the argon for shipment to Italy. Their results have appeared in conference proceedings (H. O. Back, et al, “Depleted argon from underground sources”, AIP Conf. Proc 1338: 217-220 (2011).)

PHOTO ABOVE: About 95 percent of the universe can't be seen but is believed to have mass. An experiment to prove the existence of this dark matter will use a pure form of argon from Colorado. Photo from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.