Using atom interferometry to detect dark energy
We review the tantalising prospect that the first evidence for the dark energy driving the observed acceleration of the universe on giga-parsec scales may be found through metre scale laboratory-based atom interferometry experiments. To do that, we first introduce the idea that scalar fields could be responsible for dark energy and show that in order to be compatible with fifth force constraints, these fields must have a screening mechanism which hides their effects from us within the solar system. Particular emphasis is placed on one such screening mechanism known as the chameleon effect where the field’s mass becomes dependent on the environment. The way the field behaves in the presence of a spherical source is determined and we then go on to show how in the presence of the kind of high vacuum associated with atom interferometry experiments, and when the test particle is an atom, it is possible to use the associated interference pattern to place constraints on the acceleration due to the fifth force of the chameleon field – this has already been used to rule out large regions of the chameleon parameter space and maybe one day will be able to detect the force due to the dark energy field in the laboratory.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Publication date: 02 April 2016