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Silicon sensor seeks to unravel mysteries of the universe

29 Apr 2016  | Peter Clarke

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CERN, considered as the world's largest particle physics research centre, is using silicon sensor chips measuring 15cm x 10cm from Infineon Technologies AG, with the goal of proving the existence of dark matter.

Dark matter is a hypothetical cosmological construct that is used to explain the behaviour of the universe. Dark matter makes up about 85 per cent of the matter in the universe while dark matter and dark energy together are thought to make up 95 per cent of universal matter-energy.

However, dark matter's existence has only ever been observed indirectly and there are other theories that attempt to explain discrepancies between cosmological behaviour and the observed mass-energy of the universe.

Elementary particle strip sensor

Figure 1: Elementary particle strip sensor with a size of 15cm x 10cm in the centre of the wafer (Photo: Infineon Technologies Austria AG)

CERN, the place where the Higgs boson was observed in May 2012, is now researching how it might be able to generate dark matter. This would be detected and inferred by the energies, directions of travel and ratios of particles generated by its destruction.

Elementary particle strip sensor

Figure 2: Elementary particle strip sensor released from the wafer (Photo: Infineon Technologies Austria AG)

Infineon Technologies Austria and the Austrian Academy of Sciences' Institute of High Energy Physics (HEPHY) worked together to create a silicon sensor for use in two different detectors, ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid).

Silicon tracking detector

Figure 3: Installation of the world's largest silicon tracking detector in the CMS experiment (Photo: CERN)

The latest sensors are more economical to produce and withstand radiation better and therefore age more solely than previous sensors. As a result they could be used in the tens of thousands at CERN in the near future, Infineon stated.

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