An ever-increasing amount of evidence suggests that approximately one quarter of the energy in the universe is composed of some non-luminous, and hitherto unknown, “dark matter”. Physicists from numerous sub-fields have been working on and trying to solve the dark matter problem for decades. The common solution is the existence of some new type of elementary particle with particular focus on weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). One avenue of dark matter research is to create an extremely sensitive particle detector with the goal of directly observing the interaction of WIMPs with standard matter. The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) project operated at the Soudan Underground Laboratory from 2003–2015, under the CDMS II and SuperCDMS Soudan experiments, with this goal of directly detecting dark matter. The next installation, SuperCDMS SNOLAB, is planned for near-future operation. The reason the dark-matter particle has not yet been observed in traditional particle physics experiments is that it must have very small cross sections, thus making such interactions extremely rare. In order to identify these rare events in the presence of a background of known particles and interactions, direct detection experiments employ various types and amounts of shielding to prevent known backgrounds from reaching the instrumented detector(s). CDMS utilized various γ and neutron shielding to such an effect that the shielding, and other experimental components, themselves were sources of background. These radiogenic backgrounds must be understood to have confidence in any WIMP-search result. For this dissertation, radiogenic background studies and estimates were performed for various analyses covering CDMS II, SuperCDMS Soudan, and SuperCDMS SNOLAB. Lower-mass dark matter has become more prominent in the past few years. The CDMS detectors can be operated in an alternative, higher-biased, mode to decrease their energy thresholds and correspondingly increase their sensitivity to low-mass WIMPs. This is the CDMS low ionization threshold experiment (CDMSlite), which has pushed the frontier at lower WIMP masses. This dissertation describes the second run of CDMSlite at Soudan: its hardware, operations, analysis, and results. The results include new WIMP mass-cross section upper limits on the spin-independent and spin-dependent WIMP-nucleon interactions. Thanks to the lower background and threshold in this run compared to the first CDMSlite run, these limits are the most sensitive in the world below WIMP masses of ∼4 GeV/c^2. This demonstrates also the great promise and utility of the high-voltage operating mode in the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2016. Major: Physics. Advisor: Priscilla Cushman. 1 computer file (PDF); xvii, 405 pages.
Low-Mass Dark Matter Search Results and Radiogenic Backgrounds for the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search.
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