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Exploring coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering with gram-scale cryogenic calorimeters

Project description

A tabletop detector gives us a new window on particle billiards

Neutrinos have frustrated and intrigued scientists for decades. Despite their ubiquity – trillions of them pass through your body every second – they are highly non-reactive making the usual means of detection via evidence of a collision almost useless. Nearly half a century ago, scientists predicted that neutrinos should collide more frequently with atomic nuclei than with other particles. This would result in the recoil of the nucleus, a process called coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering. This prediction was observed for the first time only a few years ago. Now, EU-funded scientists are building on their world record-setting sensitivity for detection of nuclear recoils with the NU-CLEUS project. The team will integrate the technology into an unprecedented tabletop detector, paving the way to a new era of discovery for the team, Europe and the global particle physics community.

Objective

ν-cleus will be a new multi-purpose table-top experiment aimed at the first exploration of coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering (CNNS) at a nuclear power reactor. Our novel detector technology will achieve an unprecedentedly high sensitivity to new physics within and beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics, with an enormous discovery potential. The new method is not only complementary to competing approaches, but superior in terms of performance, cost and size.

The ultra-low threshold character of my experiment will allow a determination of the Weinberg angle at MeV-scale momentum transfers and the first direct search for eV-scale sterile neutrinos via CNNS. We will significantly improve the sensitivity for a neutrino magnetic dipole moment, unravel anomalies in the reactor antineutrino spectrum and test new models for exotic neutral currents.

My research on gram-scale cryogenic calorimeters (gramCCs) has resulted in a recent breakthrough: we achieved the world-best energy threshold for nuclear-recoils of 19.7eV one order of magnitude lower than for previous detectors. I propose to operate gramCCs within a fiducial-volume cryogenic detector. This completely new detector concept is suited for an above-ground operation of excellent performance while backgrounds are significantly suppressed. Located at a nuclear power reactor ν-cleus will achieve a signal-to-background ratio of ~10^3 - a unique situation in neutrino physics. This will enable a rapid discovery of CNNS within a few weeks.

ν-cleus will have enormous impact on modern physics and future technologies. It will be a prototype for next-generation, high-precision solar neutrino experiments and guarantees a technological spin-off for reactor safeguards and non-proliferation measures. With this ERC grant I will set up a high-class research team with world-leading expertise in cryogenic detectors and low-background techniques, which will ensure Europe’s role as a pioneer in this new field.

Host institution

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Net EU contribution
€ 1 642 500,00
Address
Arcisstrasse 21
80333 Muenchen
Germany

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 642 500,00

Beneficiaries (1)