RWTH Aachen Particle Physics Theory

Exploring dark matter with IceCube and the LHC

October 2nd, 2015 | by

Various astrophysical and cosmological observations point towards the existence of dark matter, possibly a novel kind of fundamental particle, which does not emit or reflect light, and which only interacts weakly with ordinary matter.


If such a dark matter particle exists, it can be searched for in different ways: direct detection looks for the elastic scattering of dark matter with nuclei in highly sensitive underground experiments, as Earth passes through our galaxy’s dark matter halo. Indirect detection experiments on Earth or in space look for cosmic rays (neutrinos, photons, or antiparticles) from the annihilation of dark matter particles in the centre of the Galaxy or in the Sun. And last but not least, if dark matter interacts with ordinary matter, it may be produced in high-energy proton collisions at the LHC.

To explore the nature of dark matter, and to be able to combine results from direct, indirect and collider searches, one can follow a more model-independent approach and describe dark matter and its experimental signatures with a minimal amount of new particles, interactions and model parameters. Such simplified or minimal models allow to explore the landscape of dark matter theories, and serve as a mediator between the experimental searches and more complete theories of dark matter, like supersymmetry.



About 1027 dark matter particles per second may pass through the Sun. They can loose some energy through scattering off protons and eventually be captured in the core of the Sun by the Sun’s gravitational pull. Dark matter particles in the Sun would annihilate with each other and produce ordinary particles, some of which decay into neutrinos. Neutrinos interact weakly with matter, can thus escape the Sun and could be observed by the neutrino telescope IceCube near the South Pole. Neutrinos therefore provide a way to search for dark matter in the core of the Sun.

At the LHC, dark matter may be produced in high-energy proton collisions. As dark matter particles interact at most weakly with ordinary matter, they would leave no trace in the LHC detectors. However, dark matter (and other novel weakly interacting particles) can be detected by looking at exotic signatures, where a single spray of ordinary particles is seen, without the momentum and energy balance characteristic for standard particle collisions (so-called mono-jet events, see right figure).


We have recently joined forces with members of the RWTH IceCube team to explore dark matter searches from neutrinos in the Sun and through dark matter production at the LHC, see and  We have considered a minimal dark matter model where we only add two new particles to the ordinary matter: a new dark matter fermion, and a new force particle, which mediates the interaction between the dark matter fermion and the ordinary matter. As no signal for dark matter has been observed, we can place limits on the masses of the dark matter particle and the new force particle, see figure to the left. We find a strinking complementarity of the different experimental approaches, which probe particular and often distinct regions of the model parameter space.

Thus only the combination of future collider, indirect and direct searches for dark matter will allow a comprehensive test of minimal dark matter models.

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