Dark matter is strange. It makes up 84% of the universe, and we have no idea what it is and we've never seen it before. Now, a new type of directional dark matter detector has the potential to spot the signature of dark matter coming from the center of our galaxy and its made out of customized strands of DNA and sheets of gold.
Majority of astrophysicists believe that dark matter is made up of weakly interacting massive particles or WIMPs. They don't absorb or emit electromagnetic radiation, and they don't carry a charge. In fact, they're a lotlike neutrinos and are able to pass through normal matter most of the time.
Detecting a WIMP is the same way we try to detect neutrinos, you just put a bunch of atoms together into a big mass and hope you get lucky that the neutrino will run into a nucleus to create a burst of energy that can be detected.
Biologists and astrophysicists from the University of Michigan and Harvard University have come up with a way of detecting dark matter particles using a combination of customized strands of DNA and gold. It starts off with a thin, horizontal gold sheet, which are hung on an inverted "forest" of long strands of DNA, sort of like a bunch of beaded curtains all hung next to each other.
Each strand is identical except for a little tag at the bottom containing a unique code that identifies where on the sheet the strand is hanging from, looking something like this:
Researchers are hoping that when a WIMP strikes a gold nucleus in the sheet, it will send the nucleus flying into the forest of DNA strands below. As the gold nucleus goes through the DNA it will sever the strands and the ends of which fall down into the collection tray. Researchers can later on read the condes on the ends of the strands to figure out where the strands were located and measure how much of the strands remains and work out a trajectory that the gold nucleus was traveling on figuring out the direction of which the WIMP came from the first place.
The theory is that WIMPs are flying at us from one single location: the center of our galaxy and if that is true, the apparent direction that WIMPs arrive in should change as the Earth orbits the sun.