How Fermilab Uses Ancient Roman Lead and TempoIQ to Find Dark Matter
We love when customers come to our office to tell us more about their work and how they use TempoIQ. It’s a great way for the team to connect with people who are using our product and get feedback that shapes future iterations of TempoIQ.
Today, we had Javier Tiffenberg from Fermilab come in to tell us about his quest for dark matter, and how he uses TempoIQ to make sure his experiments aren’t compromised.
Javier runs a project called DAMIC, the goal of which is to create materials sensitive enough to detect dark matter, a substance that could make up over 80% of the mass of the universe that was previously unaccounted for. Scientists have observed the effects of dark matter, but direct measurement of dark matter is much more difficult. Dark matter rarely - if ever - interacts with other matter, so it is has been extremely challenging to prove that dark matter exists.
In an effort to record these rare interactions, DAMIC uses a Charge-Coupled Device (CCD). Typically, CCD’s are used to detect light in digital cameras, but the scientific CCDs used for DAMIC are purpose-built to detect electrons, muons, and elementary particles. In this case, Javier is building an experiment that shields the CCD from all of the above, so that in the rare case that dark matter interacts, it would register clearly without any of the “noise” of other particles.
As it turns out, the best way to strip away the “noise” of other particles is to shield the CCD from these particles as much as possible. The DAMIC project goes to great lengths to achieve this.
One step they take is to install the device deep underground. This uses the Earth as a shield against cosmic rays, which otherwise would register on the CCD. One of the best places in the world to do this is at @Snolab, a Canadian research facility located 1.5 miles underground in an active mine. The underground lab operates as a clean room, with particle levels similar to semiconductor manufacturing facilities.
In a further effort to shield their CCD from elementary particles, DAMIC also built a container with 1,500 year old lead mined by the Romans. Lead that is mined today still has radioactive isotopes, which could interfere with the CCD readings, but radiation has dissipated from lead that’s been mined from 500 AD.
These measures, among others, should shield the CCD from many external sources of particles, allowing the device to accurately detect dark matter. Currently, Javier and his group are finishing construction on DAMIC and expect to begin collecting data in 2015.
TempoIQ + Fermilab
Javier initially came to TempoIQ because he had a sensor problem. He needed a backend system that would scale while giving him real-time alerts. This would ensure that he could catch problems before they became fatal to the experiment, and optimize costly maintenance in @Snolab. Today, our sensor analytics backend helps Javier monitor the pressure, temperature, and general state of his system. Like we’ve found with many other resource monitoring projects, he sleeps soundly knowing that TempoIQ is always up and monitoring his data in real-time and at scale.
Fermilab joins a great group of research projects, like the pendulum clock in Trinity College, Cambridge and the Pret-a-Loger sustainable home project, who leverage our sensor analytics backend so that they can focus on the science, not the software infrastructure. We are incredibly excited about the way Fermilab, DAMIC, and Javier use TempoIQ to advance our understanding of the universe. It’s the perfect partnership between ground-breaking scientific work and highly-scalable sensor data storage, monitoring, and analysis.
If you are interested in learning more about how TempoIQ can accelerate your resource monitoring or research project, please email us contact[at]tempoiq.com or request a demo here.