Date of Award


Degree Type


Embargo Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Richard W. Schnee


Experimental Cosmology

Subject Categories



During the last two decades, cosmology has become a precision observational science thanks (in part) to the incredible number of experiments performed to better understand the composition of the universe. The large amount of data accumulated strongly indicates that the bulk of the universe’s matter is in the form of nonbaryonic matter that does not interact electromagnetically. Combined evidence from the dynamics of galaxies and galaxy clusters confirms that most of the mass in the universe is not composed of any known form of matter. Measurements of the cosmic microwave background, big bang nucleosynthesis and many other experiments indicate that 80% of the matter in the universe is dark, non-relativistic and cold. The dark matter resides in the halos surrounding galaxies, galaxy clusters and other large-scale structures.

Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) are well motivated class of dark matter candidates that arise naturally in supersymmetric extensions to the Standard Model of particles physics, and can be produced as non-relativistic thermal relics in the early universe with about the right density to account for the missing mass. The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiment seeks to directly detect the keV-scale energy deposited by WIMPs in the galactic halo when they scatter from nuclei in the crystalline detectors made of germanium and silicon. These detectors, called Z-sensitive Ionization and Phonon detectors (ZIPs) are operated at 45 mK and simultaneously measure the ionization and the (athermal) phonons produced by particle interactions. The ratio of ionization and phonon energies allows discrimination of a low rate of nuclear recoils (expected for WIMPs) from an overwhelming rate of electron recoils (expected for most backgrounds). Phonon-pulse shape and timing enables further suppression of lower-rate interactions at the detector surfaces.

This dissertation describes the results of a WIMP search using CDMS II data sets accumulated at the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota. Results from the original analysis of these data were published in 2009; two events were observed in the signal region with an expected leakage of 0.9 events. Further investigation revealed an issue with the ionization-pulse reconstruction algorithm leading to a software upgrade and a subsequent reanalysis of the data. As part of the reanalysis, I performed an advanced discrimination technique to better distinguish (potential) signal events from backgrounds using a 5-dimensional chi-square method. This data analysis technique combines the event information recorded for each WIMP-search event to derive a background-discrimination parameter capable of reducing the expected background to less than one event, while maintaining high efficiency for signal events. Furthermore, optimizing the cut positions of this 5-dimensional chi-square parameter for the 14 viable germanium detectors yields an improved expected sensitivity to WIMP interactions relative to previous CDMS results. This dissertation describes my improved (and optimized) discrimination technique and the results obtained from a blind application to the reanalyzed CDMS II WIMP-search data.

This analysis achieved the best expected sensitivity of the three techniques developed for the reanalysis and so was chosen as the primary timing analysis whose limit will be quoted in a on-going publication paper which is currently in preparation. For this analysis, a total raw exposure of 612.17 kg-days are analyzed for this work. No candidate events were observed, and a corresponding upper limit on the WIMP-nucleon scattering cross section as a function of WIMP mass is defined. These data set a 90% upper limit on spin-independent WIMP-nucleon elastic-scattering cross section of 3.19 × 10 44 cm2 for a WIMP mass of 60 GeV/c2. Combining this result with all previous CDMS II data gives an upper limit of 1.96×10 44 cm2 for a WIMP of mass 60 GeV/c2 (a factor of 2 better than the original analysis).

At the moment this analysis is being written, the WIMP-search results obtained with the reanalyzed CDMS II data occupies the second most stringent limits on WIMP-nucleon scattering, after XENON100, excluding previously unexplored parameter space. Interesting parameter space is excluded for WIMP-nucleon cross section as function of WIMP masse under standard assumptions, the parameter space favored by interpretations of other experiments’s data as low-mass WIMP signals due to an excess of low energy events and annual modulation is partially excluded for DAMA/LIBRA and CoGeNT.


Open Access

Included in

Physics Commons