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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A G/NARRLI Effort: Measuring the Ionization Yield of Low-Energy Nuclear Recoils in Liquid Argon

  • Author(s): Joshi, Tenzing Henry Yatish
  • Advisor(s): Norman, Eric
  • et al.

Liquid argon has long been used for particle detection due to its attractive drift properties, ample abundance, and reasonable density. The response of liquid argon to low-energy (100-10,000 eV) interactions is, however, largely unexplored. Weakly interacting massive particles such as neutrinos and hypothetical dark-matter particles (WIMPs) are predicted to coherently scatter on atomic nuclei, leaving only an isolated low-energy nuclear recoil as evidence. The response of liquid argon to low-energy nuclear recoils must be studied to determine the sensitivity of liquid argon based detectors to these unobserved interactions. Detectors sensitive to coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering may be used to monitor nuclear reactors from a distance, to detect neutrinos from supernova, and to test the predicted behavior of neutrinos. Additionally, direct detection of hypothetical weakly interacting dark matter would be a large step toward understanding the substance that accounts for nearly 27% of the universe. In this dissertation I discuss a small dual-phase (liquid-gas) argon proportional scintillation counter built to study the low-energy regime and several novel calibration and characterization techniques developed to study the response of liquid argon to low-energy (100-10,000 eV) interactions.

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