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Disputed dark-matter claim to be tested by new lab in South Korea

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2024-06-06 18:00:15

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Inside the hall that will house the large scintillator counter. Yemilab is built 1,000 metres underground in an old mine. Credit: Kangsoon Park and Eunkyung Lee

It’s a mystery that has had physicists scratching their heads for more than 20 years. The DAMA/LIBRA experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS) near L’Aquila, Italy, has been recording an annual fluctuation of light flashes in its detector that appears to be a sign of dark matter. But no one has been able to definitively replicate the findings.

But beneath a mountain in Jeongseon, South Korea, researchers are scaling up an experiment that could finally lay the controversial dark-matter claim to rest. In June, researchers will finish installing a revamped detector in a brand-new facility called Yemilab. If all goes to plan, the upgraded COSINE-100 experiment will be running by August, says Hyun Su Lee, a physicist at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in Daejeon, South Korea.

Dark matter is thought to account for 85% of mass in the Universe, but because it barely interacts with ordinary matter and doesn’t interact at all with light, it is notoriously difficult to observe directly. Several research teams have tried to catch a glimpse of the elusive substance, but only the DAMA/LIBRA experiment has claimed to have seen it for real.

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