Normally, dark matter is hard to detect because it does not interact with regular matter and scientists know that it exist because of the gravitational pull it exerts on the observable matter. Scientists are trying to unveil the true nature of matter by observing the way in which it affects ordinary particles. Now, scientists are designing a new technique to uncover the real nature of dark matter, they are using big atoms, known as Rydberg atoms, which are 4,000 times larger than regular atoms.

Rydberg atom

This is an atom in excited state with one or more electrons.

This kind of atoms possess a high response to electric and magnetic fields. Their valence electrons are at a very large distance from the nucleus, possessing a high potential energy that is perturbed or ionized by collisions with particles or external fields. Rydberg atoms are ideal for detecting dark matter due that they are easily perturbed and their large area increases the probability of interacting with dark matter.

The giant atom model

When a tiny particle interacts with an atom, it bounces off from the nucleus of the atom when it collide with it, exchanging a small amount of energy. This exchange produces a displacement of the nucleus affecting the electron. This effect is analyzed to obtain information about the characteristics of the colliding particle.

Due that the amount of exchanged energy is very small, scientist think that a bigger atom, such as the Rydberg atom, may give more reliable results when used in dark matter searches.

Dark matter

It´s known that dark matter exist due to the gravitational pull it exerts on galaxies. The matter that exists in a cluster of galaxies is not sufficient to move all the matter within it.

It´s believed that the extra matter is composed of dark-invisible, matter. Dark matter Dark energy-responsible for the expansion of the universe, are thought to account for approximately 95% of all the observable universe. Despite the studies about this invisible particles, scientist still don´t understand its true nature.

Using big atoms to detect other frequencies of gravitational waves

Apart from using Rydberg atoms for the detection of invisible matter, scientists are thinking about using the same technique for the detection of gravitational waves. Even though, these ripples in space and time have been detected, it´s believed that using bigger toms will allow the detection of gravitational waves, although in a different frequency.