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In particle physics, the neutralino is a hypothetical particle, part of the doubling of the menagerie of particles predicted by supersymmetric theories. The standard symbol for neutralinos is , where i runs from 1 to 4.
Origins in supersymmetric theories
In supersymmetry models, all Standard Model particles have partner particles with the same quantum numbers but spin differing by 1/2. Since the superpartners of the Z boson (zino), the photon (photino) and the neutral higgs (higgsino) have the same quantum numbers, they can mix to form four eigenstates of the mass operator called "neutralinos". In many models the lightest of the four neutralinos turns out to be the lightest supersymmetric particle (LSP), though other particles may also take on this role.
The exact properties of each neutralino will depend on the details of the mixing (e.g. whether they are more higgsino-like or gaugino-like), but they tend to have masses at the weak scale (100 GeV - 1 TeV) and couple to other particles with strengths characteristic of the weak interaction. In this way they are phenomenologically similar to neutrinos, and so are not directly observable in particle detectors at accelerators.
In models in which R-parity is conserved and the lightest of the four neutralinos is the LSP, the lightest neutralino is stable and is eventually produced in the decay chain of all other superpartners. In such cases supersymmetric processes at accelerators are characterized by a large discrepancy in energy and momentum between the visible initial and final state particles, with this energy being carried off by a neutralino which departs the detector unnoticed. This is an important signature to discriminate supersymmetry from Standard Model backgrounds.
Relationship to dark matter
As a heavy, stable particle, the lightest neutralino is an excellent candidate to comprise the universe's cold dark matter. In many models the lightest neutralino can be produced thermally in the hot early universe and leave approximately the right relic abundance to account for the observed dark matter. A lightest neutralino of roughly 10-10000 GeV is the leading weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP) dark matter candidate.
Neutralino dark matter could be observed experimentally in nature either indirectly or directly. In the former case, gamma ray and neutrino telescopes look for evidence of neutralino annihilation in regions of high dark matter density such as the galactic or solar center. In the latter case, special purpose experiments such as the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) seek to detect the rare impacts of WIMPs in terrestrial detectors. These experiments have begun to probe interesting supersymmetric parameter space, excluding some models for neutralino dark matter, and upgraded experiments with greater sensitivity are under development.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Neutralino". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|