The first results from a particle detector called LUX show it is the most powerful experiment of its kind.

It did not detect any dark matter during its first run, but scientists say it is poised to probe deeper than ever before during its second in 2014.

It has also ruled out earlier hints of dark matter shown by other experiments.

Dr Chamkaur Ghag, a collaborator on the LUX experiment from University College London, said: "If the dark matter is out there and if it interacts the way we think it does we should really start seeing it now."

Not finding any direct evidence for dark matter particles would mean that physicists would have to "go back to the drawing board", he added.