First Demonstration of a Scintillating Xenon Bubble Chamber for Detecting Dark Matter and Coherent Elastic Neutrino-Nucleus Scattering

D. Baxter, C. J. Chen, M. Crisler, T. Cwiok, C. E. Dahl, A. Grimsted, J. Gupta, M. Jin, R. Puig, D. Temples, J. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A 30-g xenon bubble chamber, operated at Northwestern University in June and November 2016, has for the first time observed simultaneous bubble nucleation and scintillation by nuclear recoils in a superheated liquid. This chamber is instrumented with a CCD camera for near-IR bubble imaging, a solar-blind photomultiplier tube to detect 175-nm xenon scintillation light, and a piezoelectric acoustic transducer to detect the ultrasonic emission from a growing bubble. The time of nucleation determined from the acoustic signal is used to correlate specific scintillation pulses with bubble-nucleating events. We report on data from this chamber for thermodynamic "Seitz" thresholds from 4.2 to 15.0 keV. The observed single- and multiple-bubble rates when exposed to a Cf252 neutron source indicate that, for an 8.3-keV thermodynamic threshold, the minimum nuclear recoil energy required to nucleate a bubble is 19±6 keV (1σ uncertainty). This is consistent with the observed scintillation spectrum for bubble-nucleating events. We see no evidence for bubble nucleation by gamma rays at any of the thresholds studied, setting a 90% C.L. upper limit of 6.3×10-7 bubbles per gamma interaction at a 4.2-keV thermodynamic threshold. This indicates stronger gamma discrimination than in CF3I bubble chambers, supporting the hypothesis that scintillation production suppresses bubble nucleation by electron recoils, while nuclear recoils nucleate bubbles as usual. These measurements establish the noble-liquid bubble chamber as a promising new technology for the detection of weakly interacting massive particle dark matter and coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number231301
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 8 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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