The name was introduced by Frank Wilczek, co-writer of the first paper to predict the axion, after a brand of detergent—because the problem with QCD had been "cleaned up".
One simple solution exists: if at least one of the quarks of the standard model is massless, becomes unobservable, i.e. it vanishes from the theory. However, empirical evidence strongly suggests that none of the quarks are massless and so the strong CP problem persists.
In 1977, Roberto Peccei and Helen Quinn postulated a more elegant solution to the strong CP problem, the Peccei-Quinn mechanism. The idea is to effectively promote to a field (particle). This is accomplished by adding a new global symmetry (called a Peccei-Quinn symmetry) to the standard model that becomes spontaneously broken. Once this new global symmetry breaks, a new particle results and, as shown by Frank Wilczek and Steven Weinberg, this particle fills the role of —naturally relaxing the CP violation parameter to zero. This hypothesized new particle is called the Axion. (On a more technical note, the axion is the would-be Nambu-Goldstone boson that results from the spontaneously broken Peccei-Quinn symmetry. However, the non-trivial QCD vacuum effects (instantons) spoil the Peccei-Quinn symmetry explicitly and provide a small mass for the axion. Hence, the axion is actually a pseudo-Nambu-Goldstone boson.)
In the Italian PVLAS experiment polarized light propagates through the magnetic field of 5 T dipole magnet, searching for a small anomalous rotation of the direction of polarization. The concept of the experiment was first put forward in 1986 by Luciano Maiani, Roberto Petronzio and Emilio Zavattini , and If axions exist, photons could interact with the field to become virtual or real axions. This rotation is very, very small and difficult to detect, but this problem can be overcome by reflecting light back and forth through the magnetic field millions of times. The most recent PVLAS results do detect an anomalous rotation, which can be interpreted in terms of an axion of mass 1–1.5 meV. However, there are other possible sources for such an effect besides axions.
Several experiments search for axions of astrophysical origin using the Primakoff effect. This effect causes conversions of axions to photons and vice versa in strong electromagnetic fields. Axions can be produced in the Sun's core when X-rays scatter off electrons and protons in the presence of strong electric fields and are converted to axions. The CAST experiment is currently underway to detect these axions by converting them back to gamma rays in a strong magnetic field.
The Axion Dark Matter Experiment (ADMX) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory searches for weakly interacting axions present in the dark matter halo of our galaxy. A strong magnetic field is used to attempt to convert an axion into a microwave photon. The process is enhanced using a tunable resonant cavity scanning the 460–810 MHz range, as determined by the predicted mass of the axion.
Another means of searching for axions is by conducting so called "light shining through walls" experiments, where a beam of light is passed through an intense magnetic field in an attempt to observe the conversion of photons into axions by allowing them to pass through an aluminium plate, blocking the passage of photons. However, these practices are of low efficacy, necessitate high initial proton flux, and those conducted by BFRS and PVLAS have been the subject of some further verification. A recent experiment had the necessary sensitivity to detect this effect if the PLVAS 2005-signal was due to axions; however, no effect was seen.
On 9 July, 2007, a paper submitted to arXiv by Carlo Rizzo and other researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique indicated with a confidence level of 94% or higher, that they believed the results published by the PVLAS experiment, in Italy were incorrect, and did not prove the existence of the axion. Initially, the team researched the matter after their claim that the axion coupling inferred from the PVLAS experiment did not match with experiments conducted in 2007 and earlier in 2006, and thus required review.
The experiment conducted by Rizzo's team differed from the approach of the Italian researchers in the fact that at the end of a vacuum chamber, an aluminium plate was placed to prevent photons from an adjacent laser from passing through the plate, where axions would simply pass through the plate and be converted back into photons , and were able to observe a small-portion of the supposed-converting particles—to the number of 4×1022 photons.
In the use of optical measurement and pulsating beams of light, the team showed through illustration of exclusion curves compared to the PVLAS experiment and another conducted by the BFRT, that the axion had been ruled out but still remained a valid hypothesis; the experiment counting as an important step in the understanding of the particle, with the possibility of a very weak coupled axion.
A few days earlier, on the 23 June, the PVLAS had submitted a paper to arXiv, in which they noted that upgrades to their measurement systems had been undertaken to increase the accuracy of their results from the previous year, through the use of 2.3 and 5.5 T fields and wavelengths of 1064 nm. With this increased accuracy, PVLAS had noted that the axion particle interpretation had been ruled out due to the absence of a rotational signal on the levels of 1.2·10−8 rad × 5.5 T and 1.0·10−8 rad × 2.3 T with 45,000 passes.
In supersymmetric theories the axion has both a scalar and a fermionic superpartner. The fermionic superpartner of the axion is called the axino, the scalar superpartner is called the saxion. In some models, the saxion is the dilaton.
If axions have low mass, thus preventing other decay modes, axion theories predict that the universe would be filled with a very cold Bose-Einstein condensate of primordial axions. Hence, depending on their mass, axions could plausibly explain the dark matter problem of physical cosmology. Observational studies to detect dark matter axions are underway, but they are not yet sufficiently sensitive to probe the mass regions where axions would be expected to be found if they are the solution to the dark matter problem. The microwave cavity experiment known as ADMX recently ruled out an axion as light as about 10−6 eV. High mass axions of the kind searched for by Jain and Singh (2007) would not persist in the modern universe and could not contribute to dark matter.
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