(Gizmodo) Scientists have struggled to define dark matter, the stuff that comprises a quarter of the universe for decades. One team hopes to find dark matter by incorporating the laws that govern subatomic particles—quantum mechanics—with quantum computer. It’s what’s brought Fermilab scientist Daniel Bowring, whose background is in accelerator physics, into the quantum computing laboratory of collaborator David Schuster at the University of Chicago.
Sensor limits have driven one dark matter-hunting team to build a dark matter detector from the same guts as a quantum computer. Their device under construction at Fermilab solidifies extreme sensing as one of present-day quantum technology’s best real-world applications.
Other scientists have started to incorporate quantum intuition into dark matter searches of their own, such as the axion-hunting HAYSTAC experiment or Fermilab scientist Alex Romanenko’s Dark SRF experiment, which attempts to produce a dark matter candidate in a superconducting radiofrequency cavity and detect it in another.
Among the biggest challenges in running a fundamental science experiment like this is workforce development. IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and other big-money companies are all pursuing quantum technology in a space with a relatively small pool of potential talent. Bowring can offer a candidate about to finish grad school a post-doctoral researcher’s salary, while a tech company can offer several times that. “We can only go as fast as we have staff power for,” he said.