How Boca Bearings are Helping in the Hunt for Dark Matter
If you look beyond the sport and hobby applications where our bearings can make all the difference, you’ll see that we’re also making a difference in industrial and scientific applications. The same state-of-the-art ceramic bearings that add 40% to your cast when fishing, or propel you to victory in cycling or RC racing are also propelling high-tech industries and scientific exploration.
So it is with the search for dark matter.
Dark matter is an unknown substance that has never been observed directly by science. We only know of its existence by the gravitational effects it has on the parts of the universe that we can observe. While something that can’t be seen or felt might seem trivial, dark matter is important because it amounts to more than a quarter of the entire universe.
In 2015, an international team of scientists created the world’s largest dark matter detector in Italy. The Xenon 1T detector was built in the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, deep below one of the highest peaks in Italy’s Apennine Mountains. It consisted of a tank of more than 7,700 pounds of purified liquid Xenon gas, which was suspended in a tank of ultrapure water to create one of the radioactively “quietest” laboratory environments ever.
Because ultrapure water is far more corrosive than even salt water, Boca Bearings was tasked with manufacturing precision ceramic bearings to be used in the detector’s submersed calibration system.
The goal of the experiment was to detect the weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) of dark matter predicted by physics models. The experiment ran blind (without human involvement) for 2 years before scientists examined the data to discover that it had failed to detect any WIMPs.
However, it was far from a failure. The detector managed to observe one of the rarest events ever witnessed: the radioactive decay of Xenon, one of the most stable elements known to man. This observation allowed scientists to calculate the half-life of Xenon-124 as 18 sextillion years. That’s an 18 followed by 21 zeroes, which is actually a trillion times longer than the universe itself has existed.
The detector also witnessed some particle interaction events that have yet to be explained. It is possible that these interactions could have been from an unexpected bosonic form of dark matter, or perhaps a different type of particle entirely. Either way, if these observations are replicated in the next generation of detectors being built now in both the US and China, the findings will likely have a profound effect upon mankind’s understanding of the universe and the physical world.
Boca Bearings’ role in this scientific endeavor is small, but crucial. The same can be said of ALL of the applications for our bearings. After all, we don’t make the RC cars, the fishing reels, or the motorcycles and bicycles. We just make them work better.