One of the most pressing question of modern physics is the nature of dark matter. The prevalent expectation is that dark matter consists of new particles, which themselves do not emit any light, but whose further microphysical structure is largely unknown.
The FWF research group STRONG-DM will address a to-date less studied particle candidate with a unique combination of experts from HEPHY and from the University of Graz. Much like neutrons - massive and electrically neutral particles of the atomic nucleus, made from quarks and gluons and bound through the strong force - dark matter can be a massive and electrically neutral bound state of a new strong force in a yet undiscovered sector of particles. This hypothesis has e.g. important consequences for the cosmic origin of dark matter (PI Pradler) and its production in collider experiments (PI Kulkarni), as well as for the observation in so-called dark matter direct detection experiments (PI Schieck). All these aspects will be investigated by a respective researcher who already brings broad expertise with her or him. Through a close collaboration, the topic will be studied from multiple angles at the same time, hence establishing a comprehensive picture of strongly interacting dark matter.
To-date a major obstacle in any of the detailed phenomenological studies like the ones proposed above was the insufficient quantitative description of dark matter bound states. The team will overcome this obstacle by the addition of yet another expert (PI Maas) who will utilize so-called lattice methods that were originally developed to study strong dynamics within the Standard Model of particle physics. It will hence, for the first time, be possible to investigate the possibility of strongly interacting dark matter starting from its fundamental structure to its detection within a synergetic research-infrastructure. We will therefore conclusively test the hypothesis of a so far relatively little studied - but very important - particle dark matter candidate.