Fermilab seeks to host MAGIS-100 — the 100-meter Matter-wave Atomic Gradiometer Interferometric Sensor — which will test quantum mechanics on macroscopic scales of space and time.

The laboratory is developing a sensitive prototype detector that could help scientists precisely measure properties of the cosmos.

One of these is dark matter. Physicists have offered a number of mathematical models describing dark matter, a mysterious substance that makes up more than a quarter of the universe. Some of these models suggest that dark matter might be made of ultralightweight particles. MAGIS-100 will be used to study these models, in particular those that predict varying atomic energy levels.

A longer-term goal for MAGIS-100 is to establish the sensitivity of its measurement technique to gravitational waves in the frequency range around 1 hertz, where there are few existing or proposed detectors. Gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein a century ago but discovered for the first time only in 2015, are ripples in space-time caused by accelerating masses, such as stars and galaxies. MAGIS-100 creates atom matter waves in superposition separated by up to 10 meters.

The MAGIS-100 prototype use of an existing vertical shaft on the Fermilab site that leads to underground areas: Scientists will perform precision quantum measurements using clouds of ultracold falling atoms, whose phases can be manipulated and read out using lasers, aiding in the test for lightweight dark matter particles. The length of the 100-meter drop expands the current limits of the technology by about a factor of 10 and provides opportunities for significant advances in the systematics of this important technology.

MAGIS-100 combines the unique physical features of the Fermilab site with the laboratory expertise in vacuum and magnetics fields to give a high level of support to the physics collaboration.

Northern Illinois University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and University of Liverpool are partners in this initiative.