Low-Threshold Modular Detectors for Coherent Elastic Neutrino-Nucleus Scattering

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overview: The goal of this R&D proposal is to develop Transition-Edge Sensor (TES) detectors optimized for measurements of Coherent Elastic Neutrino-Nucleus Scattering (CENS) with low energy thresholds 2 orders of magnitude lower than the CsI detectors used for the initial CENS measurement, opening a new window at low-recoil energies to study this relatively new channel in neutrino physics. In pursuit of this goal, this proposal has four objectives: (1) perform a detailed study to model and optimize a low-threshold TES-based CENS experiment focusing on detector performance and science reach, (2) fabricate several prototype CENS detectors based on the outcome of (1), (3) test these detectors and compare their performance to our models, and (4) train a new generation of neutrino experimental physicists.
Modeling and Optimization: We will use our decades-long experience in the design of TES
devices to evaluate designs for optimizing the science output of a CE�NS experiment at a nuclear reactor. Given a neutrino flux at the detector, we will consider the TES device physics, target materials and mass per detector, readout multiplexing architectures and achievable mass with these parameters, detector packaging and installation in a cryogenic system, backgrounds, shielding, and calibration.
Fabrication: We will fabricate several TES sensors based on the outcomes of the optimization study. We will use Silicon as our target in this proposal, a material which has been extensively studied by our group and for which we have already demonstrated gram-scale detectors with < 20 eV nuclear recoil threshold.
Testing and Validation: The Northwestern EXperimental Underground Site (NEXUS) at Fermilab will be used to test these prototype detectors and compare their performance to our models. Calibrations will be performed with optical and X-ray sources and a dedicated neutron beam and backing detector array to accurately report the response to low-energy nuclear recoils.
Training and Outreach: The activities in this proposal provide fertile ground for training of
postdoctoral researchers and graduate students, and opportunities to share the excitement of science with the broader public.
Intellectual merit: This proposal supports detector development in a new channel for neutrino physics, one that has yet to be fully explored, and whose contributions to neutrino physics and physics beyond the standard model are yet to be fully understood. Neutrinos are one of the most enigmatic of fundamental particles, and the only ones we can produce that clearly show physics beyond the standard model. The \new" CE�NS neutral current channel, detected for the �rst time only two years ago, provides a new way to study neutrino properties, understand nuclear form factors, and search for deviations from standard model predictions. This work will increase the scienti�fic reach of this new fi�eld using TES technology.
Broader impacts: The work proposed has a broad impact that extends beyond neutrino
physics. TES detectors have applications in cosmology, astronomy, industry, and defense. This proposal will contribute to the training of undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, continuing the group's commitment to mentoring undergraduates from underrepresented groups by participating in the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at Northwestern. Our group is also working to develop summer schools for training students at the Colegio de Fisica Fundamental e Interdiciplinaria de las Americas" (COFI), located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, centered
Effective start/end date8/15/207/31/22


  • National Science Foundation (PHY-2013203)


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