Direct Dark Matter Searches

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Astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe consists to about 25% of non-baryonic, cold Dark Matter, compared to merely ~4% of \'regular\' matter, composed of quarks and electrons. The existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy is striking evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model, and understanding their nature ranks among the foremost questions in science today. If the bulk of matter in the universe consists of relic massive particles moving at non-relativistic speeds, we may be able to detect these particles in direct searches with low background experiments. This talk will focus on the search for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), predicted in particular by theories invoking supersymmetry. The recoils of target nuclei resulting from elastically scattering WIMPs should be detectable in principle with sensitive detectors. I will review the current status of direct Dark Matter searches, and then elaborate on the XENON suite of experiments. The XENON Dark Matter program was established in 2002, and reached a major milestone with the installation of its first Dark Matter detector, XENON10, at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory in Italy. XENON10 reported the world-best limits on spin-independent WIMP-nucleon cross-sections last year. (CDMS-II has recently improved their limits even further.) Meanwhile, we are building the next generation detector XENON100 at the same location. The new detector will feature ten-fold greater fiducial mass and 100 times improved background. We anticipate first results by the end of the year. I will report on the status of XENON100 and its projected sensitivity, and conclude with an outlook on the prospects of the field.