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‘Snowball Chamber’ a New Tool in Search for Dark Matter

Physics researcher Matthew Szydagis draws inspiration from Disney’s ‘Frozen’

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 16, 2019) -- Assistant Professor of Physics Matthew Szydagis is on a quest to unlock the mystery of dark matter: that elusive material which likely accounts for a substantial portion of the universe, but has yet to be directly observed.

Snowball chamber chiller in the lab of Matthew Szydagis at UAlbany
The chiller used to house the 'snowball' chamber in the lab of Assistant Professor of Physics Matthew Szydagis.

"All of my work is motivated by the search for dark matter, a form of matter we're sure is out there because we can observe its indirect gravitational effects," Szydagis said, in an interview with the American Physical Society. "It makes up a significant fraction of the universe, but we have yet to uncover direct, conclusive and unambiguous evidence of it within the lab."

Inspired by the Disney movie Frozen, Szydagis is taking a new approach to his pursuit: creating a dark matter detector based on supercooled water. Called the "snowball chamber," Szydagis and his research team hope to determine if subatomic particles (which could possibly include dark matter) are capable of serving as a catalyst to the freezing of supercooled water.

Szydagis recently presented his research at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver.

The research team includes Szydagis, along with Assistant Professor of Physics Cecilia Levy, postdoctoral researcher Alvine Kamaha, doctoral student Gregory Rischbieter, graduate student Achal Duhoon, and undergraduate students Anthony Ellis, George Homenides, Corwin Knight, Isabella Magliocca, Joshua Martin, and Reciana Rajkumar.

The group envisions numerous other potential implications for their discovery, including detecting nuclear weapons in cargo for homeland security, understanding cloud formation, as well as providing clues as to how certain mammalian species hibernate — essentially ‘supercooling’ their blood.

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