Tag Archives: experiment

The XENON Detection Principle

The XENON dark matter experiment is installed underground at the Laboratory Nazionali del Gran Sasso of INFN, Italy. A 62 kg liquid xenon target is operated as a dual phase (liquid/gas) time projection chamber to search for interactions of dark matter particles.

Schema of XENON

Schema of the XENON experiment: any particle interaction in the liquid xenon (blue) yields two signals: a prompt flash of light, and a delayed charge signal. Together, these two signals give away the energy and position of the interaction as well as the type of the interacting particle. (Schema: The XENON collaboration/Rafael Lang)

An interaction in the target generates scintillation light which is recorded as a prompt signal (called S1) by two arrays of photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) at the top and bottom of the chamber. In addition, each interaction liberates electrons, which are drifted by an electric field to the liquid-gas interface with a speed of about 2 mm/μs. There, a strong electric field extracts the electrons and generates proportional scintillation which is recorded by the same photomultiplier arrays as a delayed signal (called S2). The time difference between these two signals gives the depth of the interaction in the time-projection chamber with a resolution of a few mm. The hit pattern of the S2 signal on the top array allows to reconstruct the horizontal position of the interaction vertex also with a resolution of a few mm. Taken together, our experiment is able to precisely localize events in all three coordinates. This enables the fiducialization of the target, yielding a dramatic
reduction of external radioactive backgrounds due to the self-shielding capability of liquid xenon.

In addition, the ratio S2/S1 allows to discriminate electronic recoils, which are the dominant
background, from nuclear recoils, which are expected from Dark Matter interactions. And of course, the more energy a particle deposits in the detector, the brighter both S1 and S2 signals are, hence allowing us to reconstruct the particle’s deposited energy as well.

Like Mushrooms

The XENON1T is shielded from ambient radioactivity by a large water tank that is equipped as a muon veto. The tank has a diameter of 10 meters and is 10 meters high. It is constructed from top to bottom and went up in the Gran Sasso underground laboratory within less than a month:


Construction Started

The XENON1T experiment has been approved by the INFN executive committee to be built in Hall B of the underground laboratory Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) near Assergi, Italy. The experiment is designed to perform a search for Dark Matter with a sensitivity that is more than two orders of magnitude better than the current best sensitivities in the field.

XENON at Gran Sasso

Drawing of the XENON experiment at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory. Left the water shielding with the cryostat, on the right the service building with the electronics and xenon handling systems.

XENON1T will contain more than 3000kg of liquid xenon that are instrumented as a two-phase (liquid/gas) time projection chamber. The cryostat is housed in a water tank ten meters high and ten meters in diameter, shown on the left in the picture. This water tank shields the experiment from ambient radioactivity. A three-story service building, shown on the right in the picture, houses the systems required for handling, cooling and purification of the xenon as well as electronics and computing required for data taking. First filling with liquid xenon is expected in 2014.