Techniques and challenges in low-mass dark matter searches using CDMS style detectors
Dark matter , Direct detection , Cryogenics
Astronomical and cosmological observations suggest that roughly 85% of matter in the universe is in the form of non-luminous dark matter that interacts predominantly via gravity. The preferred explanation is that dark matter is comprised of one or more new particles, which may solve open questions in particle physics. Direct detection experiments look for interactions of galactic dark matter in sensitive detectors using a variety of technologies, including: cryogenic solid state detectors, time projection chambers with liquid noble elements, and bubble chambers with superheated fluids. The cryogenic operating temperatures of solid state detectors afford these devices excellent energy resolutions and low energy thresholds, providing sensitivity to low-mass dark matter particles. The Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS) is a direct detection experiment that uses cryogenic semiconductor detectors instrumented with superconducting transition edge sensors. The first phase of SuperCDMS took place at the Soudan mine in Northern Minnesota, and preparations are being made for the next phase at SNOLAB in Sudbury, ON. Prior to the completion of SuperCDMS SNOLAB, the detectors will be tested in the neighboring experimental bay at SNOLAB in the Cryogenic Underground TEst (CUTE) facility. This thesis describes contributions to the design and construction of CUTE and testing data from SuperCDMS detectors in this facility. As well, results of a dark matter search using data from SuperCDMS Soudan, and results from a prototype detector operated at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will be presented. These data sets provide constraints on axion-like particles and dark photons with masses as low as 40 eV, and thermal relics with masses down to 40 MeV. When probing such low dark matter masses with cryogenic detectors, several experimental and analytical considerations must be taken into account, which will be detailed in this thesis.