'Snowball chamber' helps researchers use supercooled water to search for dark matter

After watching YouTube movies of individuals supercooling water in a bottle after which triggering it to freeze by banging it, one thing about this idea solidified for Matthew M. Szydagis, an assistant professor of physics on the College at Albany, State College at New York, particularly when he noticed it once more throughout the Disney film “Frozen.”

In the course of the 2019 American Bodily Society April Assembly in Denver, Szydagis will describe how this impressed him to discover whether or not a subatomic particle like darkish matter can set off the freezing of supercooled water. Learn extra at https://arxiv.org/abs/1807.09253.

“All of my work is motivated by the seek for darkish matter, a type of matter we’re positive is on the market as a result of we will observe its oblique gravitational results,” Szydagis mentioned. “It makes up a major fraction of the universe, however we now have but to uncover direct, conclusive and unambiguous proof of it throughout the lab.”

If water is clear sufficient—low in impurities, equivalent to mud particulates—and positioned in a clean sufficient container, Szydagis defined, it may be cooled under its freezing level of zero C (32 F) with out freezing.

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“That is referred to as ‘supercooling’ and is just like how water will be simply superheated within the microwave, primarily heated above its boiling level with out truly boiling. It is merely the reverse,” he mentioned. “The water finally ends up, in both of those circumstances, in a state generally known as ‘metastability,’ neither unstable nor fairly steady both.”

That is supercooled water turning into snow on an iPhone digital camera at 120 FPS slow-motion. Credit score: Joshua E. Martin

A disturbance can set off the part transition, freezing and crystallization, on this case. “This is not unusual freezing, and it kinds white snow as a substitute of clear ice,” he added. “We cooled liquid water to as chilly as -20 C (-Four F). in our lab with out it freezing. It is not the identical as freezing level melancholy, like whenever you salt your sidewalk, as a result of the water was pure and never contaminated with impurities on goal.”

The group demonstrated that sure types of particles hitting the water can microscopically (subatomically) trigger it to freeze if it is supercooled first. “Some particles like neutrons may even scatter a number of occasions throughout the water,” Szydagis mentioned. “We have been in a position to present this not solely with commercially accessible sources of particles, but in addition a Fiestaware ‘radioactive crimson’ plate with orange uranium-based paint from the 1950s.”

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They created a brand new detector primarily based on the supercooled water, dubbed the “snowball chamber” as a result of that matches properly with “bubble” and “cloud” chambers, that are applied sciences from the early- to mid-20th century that use boiling and condensation.

Supercooled water actually is not new; it has been studied for quite a few a long time by chemists and condensed matter physicists, right down to -40 C (-40 F). There are even publications about it courting again greater than 100 years previous.

“However we managed to find a brand new property of supercooled water,” Szydagis mentioned. “To our nice shock, we discovered that some particles (neutrons) however not others (gamma rays) set off freezing. Since that is primary analysis that has by no means been performed earlier than, there was no assure it will work. It was a ‘let’s strive it and see’ method—the scientific methodology in its most simple kind. Not solely do we now have a brand new detector of elementary particles, however doubtlessly of darkish matter as a result of neutrons are thought to emulate it.”

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The group envisions quite a few different potential implications for his or her discovery, together with detecting nuclear weapons in cargo for homeland safety, understanding cloud formation, and offering clues as to how sure mammalian species hibernate, supercooling their blood by some means.

Distortion of water droplet floor could enhance the probability of the droplet freezing

Extra data:
The presentation, “The Snowball Chamber: Utilizing Supercooled Water to Seek for Low-Mass Darkish Matter,” happened on Sunday, April 14, in room Governor’s Sq. 11 on the Sheraton Denver Downtown Lodge. Summary: conferences.aps.org/Assembly/APR19/Session/J09.8

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‘Snowball chamber’ helps researchers use supercooled water to seek for darkish matter (2019, April 15)
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