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The SNO+ liquid scintillator response to low-energy electrons and its effect on the experiment’s sensitivity to a future neutrinoless double beta decay signal Open Access


Other title
neutrinoless double beta decay
double beta decay
liquid scintillator
ionization quenching
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Sibley, Logan AB
Supervisor and department
Hallin, Aksel (Physics)
Examining committee member and department
Krauss, Carsten (Physics)
Moore, Roger (Physics)
Heinke, Craig (Physics)
Tanaka, Hirohisa (External)
Department of Physics

Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The SNO+ experiment is set to join the international competition of experiments searching for neutrinoless double beta decay. By loading 780 t of liquid scintillator with 0.5% natural tellurium, and with its location 2 km underground at SNOLAB, SNO+ aims to have sensitivity to determining the Majorana nature of the neutrino, a question currently at the forefront of particle physics, approaching the inverted hierarchy of the neutrino masses. To reach this sensitivity, it is crucial that SNO+ understands the response of the liquid scintillator, as systematic uncertainties on the energy scale and resolution, in particular any non-Gaussian shape of the energy resolution, may diminish the experiment’s sensitivity in a significant way. A 60Co calibration source that tags calibration events within the liquid scintillator will enable SNO+ to precisely study the shape of the energy resolution near the endpoint of the 130Te double beta decay. Monte Carlo simulations of the calibration source predict it will measure a 3.24% energy resolution at an energy of 2.51 MeV. Because 60Co emits two gamma-rays upon decaying, whereas the expected signal of neutrinoless double beta decay is the sum of two electrons, it is also crucial for SNO+ to understand how the response of the liquid scintillator depends on particle type and energy. This dissertation provides the first measurement of the SNO+ tellurium-loaded liquid scintillator response to low-energy electrons. Ionization quenching of low-energy electrons in the tellurium-loaded liquid scintillator is small, with Birks’ constant measured to be kB = (4.1 ± 2.9) × 10−6 cm/keV.
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