Eighty percent of the matter in the universe is dark matter. Researchers from institutions including Texas A&M University are studying germanium (Ge) to develop technology that can detect dark matter. (Credit: Getty Images.)


Texas A&M University researchers are part of an international collaborative project studying germanium for dark matter research that has received a National Science Foundation's Partnerships for International Research Education (PIRE) award.

Dr. Rusty Harris, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is representing Texas A&M as co-principal investigator in the Germanium Materials and Detectors Advancement Research Consortium (GEMADARC) project.

He is joined by high energy physicists Dr. Rupak Mahapatra and Dr. Nader Mirabolfathi in Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy.

PIRE is an NSF-wide program that supports high quality projects in which advances in research and education could not occur without international collaboration.

The GEMADARC project aims to advance germanium (Ge) materials for developing Ge detectors and technologies aiding direct detection of dark matter and neutrino properties.

It consists of six domestic universities, two national laboratories and four international institutes from Canada, China, Germany and Taiwan.

"Germanium is a spectacular material and was used to make the first transistor in the 1950s," Harris said. "We know how to make large chunks of germanium with near crystalline perfection. At the same time, it happens to be the element that is most likely to interact with particles and produce small vibrations, essentially quantum mechanical heat."

"Germanium provides the unique combination of interaction and electronic properties that allows for the sensitive exploration of nature's fundamental properties," said Dr. Dongming Mei of the Department of Physics at the University of South Dakota and principal investigator of the GEMADARC project. "GEMADARC connects state-of-the art technology development with leading-edge physics research. This is an exciting opportunity for students, faculty and researchers to build cross-disciplinary international alliances."

"The PIRE program gives us the tools to develop a diverse, globally-engaged U.S. scientific and engineering workforce," Harris said. "We can now provide international exposure to undergraduate and graduate students, K-12 teachers and postdoctoral fellows so that they become well-rounded future educators and scientists. This is an exciting opportunity provided to these burgeoning scientists so that they may actually visit and conduct research at international facilities."

International collaborators include Queen's University in Canada, Tsinghua University in China, Max Planck Institute in Germany and Academic Sinica's Institute of Physics in Taiwan. PIRE:GEMADARC directly supports and strongly interacts with major physics research collaborations and underground research facilities including LEGEND, Majorana, SuperCDMS, CUBED, and the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

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Contact: Shraddha Sankhe, (979) 458-5007 or shraddha@tamu.edu

Shraddha Sankhe

  • Dr. Rusty Harris

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