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Physics Colloquium: Thomas Brunner, McGill Univ., “nEXO – Searching for Neutrinoless Double-Beta Decay in 136 Xe”
March 6, 2018 @ 4:00 pm
Abstract: Despite tremendous progress in understanding the fundamental properties of neutrinos over the past decades, several key questions remain unanswered. In particular, we do not yet know if neutrinos are Majorana particles (i.e., are neutrinos and antineutrinos identical?). The most sensitive experimental probe of the Majorana nature of the neutrino is to search for the lepton-number violating neutrinoless double-beta decay (0vbb). A positive observation of this decay mode would confirm that neutrinos are Majorona particles and demonstrate physics that is not explained by the Standard Model. The EXO-200 collaboration is currently searching for 0vbb decays in 136 Xe in a detector filled with ~175kg of enriched liquid Xe, and has provided one of the most sensitive limits on the half-life of this decay (T_1/2 > 1.8 x 10 25 yr at 90% C.L.).
In order to increase the sensitivity to 0vbb decays, we are developing a new detector, called nEXO, which will deploy 5 tons of liquid xenon, enriched in the isotope 136 Xe. To push nEXO’s limit of sensitivity, new technologies, such as Silicon PhotoMultiplier (SiPM), are being developed. In addition, innovative methods are being investigated to extract and identify the 136 Xe bb-decay daughter 136 Ba, which would allow an almost background free measurement of 0vbb. The nEXO detector is designed to improve current measurements by almost two orders of magnitude, and it is anticipated to be located at SNOLAB. The latest results from EXO-200 will be presented in this talk along with future prospects and developments of nEXO.