Cryogenic Dark Matter Search

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The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) is a series of experiments designed to directly detect particle dark matter in the form of WIMPs. Using an array of semiconductor detectors at millikelvin temperatures, CDMS has set the most sensitive limits to date on the interactions of WIMP dark matter with terrestrial materials[citation needed]. The first experiment, CDMS I, was run in a tunnel under the Stanford University campus. The current experiment, SuperCDMS, is located deep underground in the Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota.


Observations of the large-scale structure of the universe show that matter is aggregated into very large structures that have not had time to form under the force of their own self-gravitation. It is generally believed that some form of missing mass is responsible for increasing the gravitational force at these scales, although this mass has not been directly observed. This is a problem; normal matter in space will heat up until it gives off light, so if this missing mass exists, it is generally assumed to be in a form that is not commonly observed on earth.

A number of proposed candidates for the missing mass have been put forward over time. Early candidates included heavy baryons that would have had to be created in the big bang, but more recent work on nucleosynthesis seems to have ruled most of these out.[1] Another candidate are new types of particles known as weakly interacting massive particles, or "WIMP"s. As the name implies, WIMPs interact weakly with normal matter, which explains why they are not easily visible.[1]

Detecting WIMPs thus presents a problem; if the WIMPs are very weakly interacting, detecting them will be extremely difficult. Detectors like CDMS and similar experiments measure huge numbers of interactions within their detector volume in order to find the extremely rare WIMP events.

Detection technology[edit]

The CDMS detectors measure the ionization and phonons produced by every particle interaction in their germanium and silicon crystal substrates.[1] These two measurements determine the energy deposited in the crystal in each interaction, but also give information about what kind of particle caused the event. The ratio of ionization signal to phonon signal differs for particle interactions with atomic electrons ("electron recoils") and atomic nuclei ("nuclear recoils"). The vast majority of background particle interactions are electron recoils, while WIMPs (and neutrons) are expected to produce nuclear recoils. This allows WIMP-scattering events to be identified even though they are rare compared to the vast majority of unwanted background interactions.

From Supersymmetry, the probability of a spin-independent interaction between a WIMP and a nucleus would be related to the amount of nucleons in the nucleus. Thus, a WIMP would be more likely to interact with a germanium detector than a silicon detector, since germanium is a much heavier element. Neutrons would be able to interact with both silicon and germanium detectors with similar probability. By comparing rates of interactions between silicon and germanium detectors, CDMS is able to determine the probability of interactions being caused by neutrons.

CDMS detectors are disks of germanium or silicon, cooled to millikelvin temperatures by a dilution refrigerator. The extremely low temperatures are needed to limit thermal noise which would otherwise obscure the phonon signals of particle interactions. Phonon detection is accomplished with superconduction transition edge sensors (TESs) read out by SQUID amplifiers, while ionization signals are read out using a FET amplifier. CDMS detectors also provide data on the phonon pulse shape which is crucial in rejecting near-surface background events.


Simultaneous detection of ionization and heat with semiconductors at low temperature was first proposed by Blas Cabrera, Lawrence M. Krauss, and Frank Wilczek.[2]

CDMS collected WIMP search data in a shallow underground site at Stanford University through 2002, and has operated (with collaboration from the University of Minnesota) in the Soudan Mine since 2003. A new detector, SuperCDMS, with interleaved electrodes, more mass, and even better background rejection is currently taking data at Soudan.


On December 17, 2009, the collaboration announced the possible detection of two candidate WIMPs, one on August 8, 2007 and the other on October 27, 2007. Due to the low number of events, the team could exclude false positives from background noise such as neutron collisions. It is estimated that such noise would produce two or more events 25% of the time.[3] Polythene absorbers were fitted to reduce any neutron background.[4]

A 2011 analysis with lower energy thresholds, looked for evidence for low-mass WIMPs (M < 9 GeV). Their limits rule out hints claimed by a new germanium experiment called CoGeNT and the long-standing DAMA/NaI, DAMA/LIBRA annual modulation result.[5]

A further analysis of data in Physical Review Letters May 2013, revealed 3 WIMP detections with expected background of 0.7, with masses expected from WIMPs, including neutralinos. There is a 0.19% chance that these are anomalous background noise, giving the result a 99.8% (3 sigma) confidence level. Whilst not conclusive evidence for WIMPs this provides strong weight to the theories.[6]

SuperCDMS search results from October 2012 to June 2013 were published in June 2014, finding 11 events in the signal region for WIMP mass less than 30 GeV, and set an upper limit for spin-independent cross section disfavoring a recent CoGeNT low mass signal.[7]

Proposed upgrades: SuperCDMS and GEODM[edit]

SuperCDMS is the successor to CDMS II. The "super" refers to the larger, improved detectors. There are actually three generations of SuperCDMS planned:[8][9]

  1. SuperCDMS Soudan, with 9.3 kg of active detector mass made of 15×620 g germanium discs (76.2 mm/3″ diameter × 25.4 mm/1″ thick) has been operating since March 2012.
  2. SuperCDMS SNOLAB, with 50 kg of active detector mass, made of 15×1380 g germanium discs (100 mm/3.9″ diameter × 33.3 mm/1.3″ thick).[10]:18–25 Development is underway, and it was hoped construction would begin in 2014,[11] but it has been delayed to 2016.[10] The deeper SNOLAB site will reduce cosmic ray backgrounds compared to Soudan.
  3. GEODM (Germanium Observatory for Dark Matter), with roughly 1500 kg of detector mass. Originally planned for DUSEL, it is being relocated to SNOLAB.[12]

Increasing the detector mass only makes the detector more sensitive if the unwanted background detections do not increase as well, thus each generation must be cleaner and better shielded than the one before. The purpose of building in ten-fold stages like this is to develop the necessary shielding techniques before finalizing the GEODM design.


  1. ^ a b c "WIMP Dark Matter", CDMSII Overview, University of California, Berkeley
  2. ^ B. Cabrera; L.M. Krauss; F. Wilczek (July 1985), "Bolometric detection of neutrinos", Phys. Rev. Lett., 55: 25–28, Bibcode:1985PhRvL..55...25C, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.55.25 
  3. ^ "Latest Results in the Search for Dark Matter Thursday, December 17, 2009"
  4. ^
  5. ^ CDMS Collaboration (21 Apr 2011). "Results from a Low-Energy Analysis of the CDMS II Germanium Data". arXiv:1011.2482v3Freely accessible [astro-ph.CO]. 
  6. ^ CDMS Collaboration (4 May 2013). "Dark Matter Search Results Using the Silicon Detectors of CDMS II". Physical Review Letters. 111. arXiv:1304.4279Freely accessible. Bibcode:2013PhRvL.111y1301A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.251301. 
  7. ^ "Search for Low-Mass WIMPs with SuperCDMS". Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 241302. 112. June 20, 2014. arXiv:1402.7137Freely accessible. Bibcode:2014PhRvL.112x1302A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.241302. 
  8. ^ Cushman, Priscilla (2012-07-22), "The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search: Status and Future Plans" (PDF), IDM Conference 
  9. ^ Saab, Tarek (2012-08-01), "The SuperCDMS Dark Matter Search" (PDF), SLAC Summer Institute 2012, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, retrieved 2012-11-28  (presentation)
  10. ^ a b Brink, Paul (25 June 2015). SuperCDMS results and plans for SNOLAB. 11th Patras Workshop on Axions, WIMPs and WISPs. Zaragoza, Spain. 
  11. ^ "Second generation dark matter experiment coming to SNOLAB" (Press release). SNOLAB. 2014-07-18. Retrieved 2014-09-18. 
  12. ^ Golwala, Sunil (2011-08-15). GEODM Interest in the SNOLAB Cryopit (PDF). 

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