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Title: A Study of Nuclear Recoil Backgrounds in Dark Matter Detectors
Authors: Westerdale, Shawn Scott
Advisors: Calaprice, Frank P
Contributors: Physics Department
Keywords: Backgrounds
Dark matter
Liquid scintillator
Neutron veto
Subjects: Physics
Particle physics
Nuclear physics and radiation
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Despite the great success of the Standard Model of particle physics, a preponderance of astrophysical evidence suggests that it cannot explain most of the matter in the universe. This so-called dark matter has eluded direct detection, though many theoretical extensions to the Standard Model predict the existence of particles with a mass on the 1–1000 GeV scale that interact only via the weak nuclear force. Particles in this class are referred to as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), and their high masses and low scattering cross sections make them viable dark matter candidates. The rarity of WIMP-nucleus interactions makes them challenging to detect: any background can mask the signal they produce. Background rejection is therefore a major problem in dark matter detection. Many experiments greatly reduce their backgrounds by employing techniques to reject electron recoils. However, nuclear recoil backgrounds, which produce signals similar to what we expect from WIMPs, remain problematic. There are two primary sources of such backgrounds: surface backgrounds and neutron recoils. Surface backgrounds result from radioactivity on the inner surfaces of the detector sending recoiling nuclei into the detector. These backgrounds can be removed with fiducial cuts, at some cost to the experiment’s exposure. In this dissertation we briefly discuss a novel technique for rejecting these events based on signals they make in the wavelength shifter coating on the inner surfaces of some detectors. Neutron recoils result from neutrons scattering off of nuclei in the detector. These backgrounds may produce a signal identical to what we expect from WIMPs and are extensively discussed here. We additionally present a new tool for calculating (α, n) yields in various materials. We introduce the concept of a neutron veto system designed to shield against, measure, and provide an anti-coincidence veto signal for background neutrons. We discuss the research and development that informed the design of the DarkSide-50 boron-loaded liquid scintillator neutron veto. We describe the specific implementation of this veto system in DarkSide-50, including a description of its performance, and show that it can reject neutrons with a high enough efficiency to allow DarkSide-50 to run background-free for three years.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Physics

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