The McKinsey group uses cryogenic techniques to explore topics in particle astrophysics and low temperature physics. A common theme in these experiments is the use of liquified noble gases as scintillators. In particular, we are active in the search for dark matter particles in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). We are also working on practical detector applications of liquified noble gases, and developing techniques for imaging cryogenic fluid flow and turbulence.
One of our projects is Cryogenic Low Energy Astrophysics with Noble gases (CLEAN). CLEAN is an idea for a neutrino and dark matter detector that uses liquid neon and argon as targets. At SNOLAB in Sudbury, Canada, we are building a 500-kg liquid argon detector called Mini-CLEAN that will have unprecedented sensitivity to WIMP-nucleon scattering. The liquid argon may also be swapped out for liquid neon, to test any putative WIMP signal (which would give a different energy spectrum in the two liquids) and also demonstrate the liquid neon technology for the future 50-ton CLEAN detector. Prof. McKinsey is Co-Spokesperson of the MiniCLEAN and CLEAN experiments.
The McKinsey group also collaborates on the highly successful XENON10 experiment, which was used to search for WIMPs with liquid xenon as the target. In 2008, the XENON10 collaboration published the best upper limit at the time on the WIMP-nucleon scattering cross section, a powerful demonstration of this new technology. With funding from the NSF, we are now actively working on LUX, a 350-kg liquid xenon dark matter detector that will be 100 times more sensitive to dark matter. LUX is under construction at the Sanford Laboratory in South Dakota, and the LUX dark matter search is planned to begin in Summer 2011. Prof. McKinsey serves as Chairman of the LUX Executive Committee.
Our third area of research represents an unusual approach to particle detection, by observing tracks of metastable helium molecules through the use of laser induced fluorescence. We have demonstrated this technique, imaging clouds of helium molecules produced by ionizing radiation scattering in liquid helium. This method may be well suited for detecting particularly light WIMPs (1-10 GeV), since WIMPs in this mass range will most efficiently transfer their kinetic energy to a light nucleus like helium. In addition, we have shown that metastable helium molecules may be used as tracers to image fluid flow in liquid helium. With NSF funding, we are now developing this technique for the imaging of quantum turbulence dynamics.
Please browse our website to learn more about who we are and what we do.
- >Scintillation and Charge Yield from the Tracks of Energetic Electrons in Superfluid Helium-4. JINST 7, P01002 (2012). (arXiv)
- >Liquefied Noble Gas (LNG) Detectors for Detection of Nuclear Materials. JINST 7, C03007 (2012).
- >Scintillation Yield and Time Dependence from Electronic and Nuclear Recoils in Liquid Neon. Submitted for Publication. (arXiv)
- >Radio-Assay of Titanium Samples for the LUX Experiment. Submitted for Publication. (arXiv)
- >LUXSim: A Component-Centric Approach to Low-Background Simulations. Nucl. Instrum. and Meth. A 675, p. 63 (2012). (arXiv)
- >Data Acquisition and Readout System for the LUX Dark Matter Experiment. Nucl. Instrum. and Meth. A 668, p. 1 (2012). (arXiv)