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Search for sterile neutrinos in β-decays

Abstract : The work presented in this thesis is about the sterile neutrino search with the two experiments SOX and TRISTAN based on the β-decay. Sterile neutrinos are theoretically well motivated particles that do not participate in any fundamental interaction except for the gravitation. With the help of these particles one could elegantly explain the origin of the neutrino mass, dark matter and the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe. As sterile neutrinos can mix with the known active neutrinos, they could be discovered in laboratory searches. The SOX experiment was designed to search for a sterile neutrino with a mass in the eV-range. This particular mass range is motivated by several anomalous observations at short-baseline neutrino experiments that could be explained by an additional oscillation with a length in the order of meters that arises from an eV-scale sterile neutrino. For SOX it was planned to use the existing Borexino solar neutrino detector to search for an oscillation signal within the detector volume. The neutrinos are emitted from a 5.5 PBq electron-antineutrino source made of the β-decaying isotopes ¹⁴⁴Ce and ¹⁴⁴Pr, located at 8.5 m distance from the detector center. For the analysis of the signal it is crucial to know the source activity. This parameter is determined by measuring the decay heat of the source with a thermal calorimeter that was developed by TUM and INFN Genova. The decay heat is measured through the temperature increase of a well-defined water flow in a heat exchanger that surrounds the source. The calorimeter was assembled, optimized and characterized. Heat losses were determined through calibration measurements with an electrical heat source. Adjustable measurement conditions and an elaborate thermal insulation allowed an operation with negligible heat losses. It was proven that the power of a decaying source can be measured with <0.2% uncertainty in a single measurement that lasts ~5 days. Unfortunately the SOX experiment was canceled after a technological problem rendered the source production with the required activity and purity impossible. The TRISTAN project is an attempt to discover sterile neutrinos with masses in the order of keV. In contrast to eV-scale sterile neutrinos that are motivated by several anomalies observed in terrestrial experiments, the existence of sterile neutrinos with masses in the keV range could resolve cosmological and astrophysical issues, as they are dark matter candidates. The TRISTAN project is an extension of the KATRIN experiment to search for the signature of keV-scale sterile neutrinos in the tritium β-spectrum. KATRIN itself is attempting to determine the effective neutrino mass by measuring the end point of the tritium spectrum at low counting rates. The KATRIN setup will be modified after the neutrino mass measurements are finished to conduct a differential and integral measurement of the entire tritium spectrum. This project is called TRISTAN. The current detector will be replaced by a novel 3500-pixel silicon drift detector system that has an outstanding energy resolution of a few hundred eV and can handle rates up to 10⁸ counts per second as they occur when the entire spectrum is scanned. Prototype detectors were successfully tested and first tritium data was taken at the Troitsk ν-mass spectrometer to study systematic effects and develop analysis methods. A successful fit of the differential tritium spectrum proved the feasibility of this approach. TRISTAN itself is still at an early stage, but the detector development and systematic studies are well on track and delivered so far encouraging results. The sterile neutrino search is scheduled after the KATRIN neutrino mass program is finished in ~2024.
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Submitted on : Friday, December 6, 2019 - 4:23:09 PM
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  • HAL Id : tel-02397726, version 1


Konrad Martin Altenmüller. Search for sterile neutrinos in β-decays. High Energy Physics - Experiment [hep-ex]. Université Paris-Saclay; Technische Universität (Munich, Allemagne), 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019SACLS338⟩. ⟨tel-02397726⟩



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