A novel search for inelastic dark matter

5 July 2023

A report from the CMS experiment.

CMS figure 1

As dark matter (DM) search experiments increasingly constrain minimal models, more complex ones have gained importance, featuring a rich “dark sector” with additional particle states and often involving forces that cannot be directly felt by Standard Model (SM) particles. Nevertheless, the SM and dark sector are typically connected by a “portal” that can be experimentally probed.

The CMS collaboration recently presented the first dedicated collider search for inelastic dark matter (IDM) using the LHC Run 2 dataset. In IDM models, a small Majorana mass component is combined with a Dirac fermion field corresponding to the DM and added to the SM Lagrangian, resulting in two new DM mass eigenstates with a predominantly off-diagonal (inelastic) coupling and a small mass splitting. In addition, a dark photon (a gauge boson similar to the ordinary photon) serves as the portal to the SM. This means that at the LHC, the lighter (χ1) and heavier (χ2) DM states are simultaneously produced via a dark photon (A′). While the lighter state is stable and escapes the detector, the heavier one can travel a macroscopic distance before decaying to the lighter one and a pair of muons, which are produced away from the collision point.

This process can be probed by exploiting a striking signature: a pair of almost collinear, low-momentum and displaced muons from the χ2 decay; significant missing transverse momentum (MET) from the χ1; and an initial-state radiation jet that can be used for trigger purposes. The MET-dimuon system recoils against the high-momentum jet, so that the muons and MET are also almost collinear. This unique topology presents challenges, including the reconstruction of the displaced muons. This problem was addressed by using a dedicated reconstruction algorithm, which remains efficient even for muons produced several metres away from the collision point (figure 1, left).

The first dedicated collider search for IDM using the full dataset collected during LHC Run 2

After applying event-selection criteria targeting the expected IDM signal, the number of events is compared to the data-driven background prediction: no excess is observed. Upper limits are set on the product of the pp → A′ χ2χ1 production cross-section and the branching fraction of the χ2χ1 μ+μ decay; they are shown in figure 1 (right) for a scenario with 10% mass splitting between the χ1 and χ2 states. The y variable is roughly proportional to the interaction strength between the SM and the DM sector. Values of y > 10–7 to  10–9 are excluded for masses between 3 and 80 GeV, when assuming that the fine structure constant has the same value in the dark sector and in the SM.

CMS physicists are looking forward to probing more complex and well-motivated DM models with novel and creative uses of the existing detector.

Further reading

CMS Collab. 2023 arXiv:2305.11649.

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