UWA experts seek to unlock mysteries of the universe

UWA experts seek to unlock mysteries of the universe

Stephen Kuper

Two physicists from the University of Western Australia are among a big team of Australian and international researchers to tackle one of the greatest scientific questions: what is the nature of dark matter?

Professor Michael Tobar and Dr Maxim Goryachev, from UWA’s School of Physics, Mathematics and Computing, are part of the multidisciplinary team that includes astronomers, particle physicists and nuclear physicists.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced the government would provide $35 million to establish the ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics, based at the University of Melbourne.

“We can’t see dark matter but we know it exists and unlocking its secrets has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe,” Minister Tehan said.

The project will involve particle, nuclear and quantum physics as well as particle astrophysics to pursue the discovery of dark matter particles.

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A world leader in frequency metrology, precision and quantum measurements, Professor Tobar has a particular interest in undertaking precision tests of fundamental physics. He leads the Frequency and Quantum Metrology Laboratory at UWA and is particularly focused on carrying out the first experiments in the southern hemisphere, which will search for axion dark matter.

Dr Goryachev brings considerable experience in low-temperature, low-noise, precision measurements, and frequency metrology.

Last year he won the prestigious European Frequency and Time Forum (EFTF) Young Scientist Award for his work on the development of cryogenic Bulk Acoustic Wave (BAW) technology, and application to precision oscillators, fundamental physics tests and quantum measurements.

The new centre will also involve new precision experiments at UWA in the laboratories of Professor Tobar and Dr Goryachev, focusing on low temperature and quantum techniques to gain better sensitivity than ever achieved.

The new ARC Centre of Excellence will take advantage of the first underground physics lab in the southern hemisphere. The Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory will be built deep underground at the Stawell Gold Mine in western Victoria to allow researchers to conduct experiments that rely on precise measurements using some of the world’s most sensitive scientific equipment.

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