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 Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (or WIMPs). Using an array of semiconductor detectors at millikelvin temperatures, CDMS has at times set the most sensitive limits on the interactions of WIMP dark matter with terrestrial materials (as of 2018, CDMS limits are not the most sensitive). The first experiment, CDMS I, was run in a tunnel under the Stanford University campus. It was followed by CDMS II experiment in the Soudan Mine. The most recent experiment, SuperCDMS (or SuperCDMS Soudan), was located deep underground in the Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota and collected data from 2011 through 2015. The series of experiments continues with SuperCDMS SNOLAB, an experiment located at the SNOLAB facility near Sudbury, Ontario in Canada that started construction in 2018 and is expected to start data taking in early 2020s.


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 number 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.


Bolometric detection of neutrinos with semiconductors at low temperature was first proposed by Blas Cabrera, Lawrence M. Krauss, and Frank Wilczek,[2] and a similar method was proposed for WIMP detection by Mark Goodman and Edward Witten.[3]

CDMS I collected WIMP search data in a shallow underground site (called SUF, Stanford Underground Facility) at Stanford University 1998–2002. CDMS II operated (with collaboration from the University of Minnesota) in the Soudan Mine from 2003 to 2009 (data taking 2006–2008).[4] The newest experiment, SuperCDMS (or SuperCDMS Soudan), with interleaved electrodes, more mass, and even better background rejection was taking data at Soudan 2011–2015. The series of experiments continue with SuperCDMS SNOLAB, currently (2018) under construction in SNOLAB and to be completed in the early 2020s.

The series of experiments also includes the CDMSlite experiment which used SuperCDMS detectors at Soudan in an operating mode (called CDMSlite-mode) that was meant to be sensitive specifically to low-mass WIMPs. As the CDMS-experiment has multiple different detector technologies in use, in particular, 2 types of detectors based on germanium or silicon, respectively, the experiments derived from some specific configuration of the CDMS-experiment detectors and different data-sets thus collected are sometimes given names like CDMS Ge, CDMS Si, CDMS II Si et cetera.


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.[5] Polythene absorbers were fitted to reduce any neutron background.[6]

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.[7]

Further analysis of data in Physical Review Letters May 2013, revealed 3 WIMP detections with an 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 sigmas) confidence level. Whilst not conclusive evidence for WIMPs this provides strong weight to the theories.[8] This signal was observed by the CDMS II-experiment and it is called the CDMS Si-signal (sometimes the experiment is also called CDMS Si) because it was observed by the silicon detectors.

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.[9]

SuperCDMS SNOLAB[edit]

A second generation of SuperCDMS is planned for SNOLAB.[10][11] This is expanded from SuperCDMS Soudan in every way:

  • The individual detector discs are 100 mm/3.9″ diameter × 33.3 mm/1.3″ thick, 225% the volume of the 76.2 mm/3″ diameter × 25.4 mm/1″ thick discs in Soudan.[10][11]
  • There are more of them, with room for 31 "towers" of six discs each,[12]: 7  although operation will begin with only four towers.
  • The detector is better shielded, by both its deeper location in SNOLAB, and greater attention to radiopurity in construction.[13]: 18 

The increase in detector mass is not quite as large, because about 25% of the detectors will be made of silicon,[12]: 7  which only weights 44% as much.[14]: 1  Filling all 31 towers at this ratio would result in about 222 kg

Although the project has suffered repeated delays (earlier plans hoped for construction to begin in 2014[15] and 2016[13]: 18–25 ), it remains active,[14] with space allocated in SNOLAB and a scheduled construction start in early 2018.[10]: 9 

The construction of SuperCDMS at SNOLAB started in 2018 with beginning of operations in early 2020s. The project budget at the time was US$34 million.[16]

In May 2021, the SuperCDMS SNOLAB detector was under construction, with early science (or prototyping, or preliminary studies) ongoing with prototype/testing hardware, both at the SNOLAB location and at other locations. The full detector was expected ready for science data taking at the end of 2023, and the science operations to last 4 years (with two separate runs) 2023-2027, with possible extensions and developments beyond 2027.[17]

In May 2022, SuperCDMS SNOLAB detector installation was in progress, with a plan to start commissioning run in 2023. First science run with full detector payload in early 2024 and first result in early 2025.[18]

In June 2023, SuperCDMS SNOLAB installation was in full swing. Commissioning was expected to start in 2024.[19]

GEODM proposal[edit]

A third generation of SuperCDMS is envisioned,[10] although still in the early planning phase. GEODM (GErmanium Observatory for Dark Matter), with roughly 1500 kg of detector mass, has expressed interest in the SNOLAB "Cryopit" location.[20]

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" Archived 2002-06-01 at the Wayback Machine, CDMSII Overview, University of California, Berkeley
  2. ^ B. Cabrera; L.M. Krauss; F. Wilczek (July 1985), "Bolometric detection of neutrinos", Phys. Rev. Lett., 55 (1): 25–28, Bibcode:1985PhRvL..55...25C, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.55.25, PMID 10031671
  3. ^ M.W. Goodman; E. Witten (15 June 1985), "Detectability of certain dark matter candidates", Phys. Rev. D, 31 (12): 3059–3063, Bibcode:1985PhRvD..31.3059G, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.31.3059, PMID 9955633
  4. ^ Ananthaswamy, Anil (2010-03-02). The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe. HMH. ISBN 978-0-547-48846-2.
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  6. ^ "CDMS cryostat without detectors". Archived from the original on 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
  7. ^ CDMS Collaboration (21 Apr 2011). "Results from a Low-Energy Analysis of the CDMS II Germanium Data". Physical Review Letters. 106 (13): 131302. arXiv:1011.2482. Bibcode:2011PhRvL.106m1302A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.131302. PMID 21517371. S2CID 9879642.
  8. ^ CDMS Collaboration (4 May 2013). "Dark Matter Search Results Using the Silicon Detectors of CDMS II". Physical Review Letters. 111 (25): 251301. arXiv:1304.4279. Bibcode:2013PhRvL.111y1301A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.251301. PMID 24483735. S2CID 3073653.
  9. ^ Agnese, R.; Anderson, A. J.; Asai, M.; Balakishiyeva, D.; Basu Thakur, R.; Bauer, D. A.; Beaty, J.; Billard, J.; Borgland, A.; Bowles, M. A.; Brandt, D.; Brink, P. L.; Bunker, R.; Cabrera, B.; Caldwell, D. O.; Cerdeno, D. G.; Chagani, H.; Chen, Y.; Cherry, M.; Cooley, J.; Cornell, B.; Crewdson, C. H.; Cushman, P.; Daal, M.; Devaney, D.; Di Stefano, P. C. F.; Silva, E. Do Couto E.; Doughty, T.; Esteban, L.; et al. (June 20, 2014). "Search for Low-Mass WIMPs with SuperCDMS". Phys. Rev. Lett. 112 (24): 241302. arXiv:1402.7137. Bibcode:2014PhRvL.112x1302A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.241302. hdl:1721.1/88645. PMID 24996080. S2CID 119066853.
  10. ^ a b c d Cushman, Priscilla (2012-07-22), "The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search: Status and Future Plans" (PDF), IDM Conference
  11. ^ a b Saab, Tarek (2012-08-01), "The SuperCDMS Dark Matter Search" (PDF), SLAC Summer Institute 2012, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-24, retrieved 2012-11-28 (presentation)
  12. ^ a b Rau, Wolfgang (25 July 2017). SuperCDMS SNOLAB—Status and Plans. XV International Conference on Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics (TAUP 2017). Sudbury, Canada.
  13. ^ a b Brink, Paul (25 June 2015). SuperCDMS results and plans for SNOLAB. 11th Patras Workshop on Axions, WIMPs and WISPs. Zaragoza, Spain.
  14. ^ a b Agnese, R.; et al. (SuperCDMS Collaboration) (2017-04-07). "Projected sensitivity of the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment" (PDF). Physical Review D. 95 (8): 082002. arXiv:1610.00006. Bibcode:2017PhRvD..95h2002A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.95.082002. hdl:1721.1/109800. S2CID 32272925. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-10-22. Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  15. ^ "Second generation dark matter experiment coming to SNOLAB" (Press release). SNOLAB. 2014-07-18. Archived from the original on 2019-03-30. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
  16. ^ "Construction Begins on SuperCDMS Dark Matter Experiment".
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  18. ^ "Sanford Lab" (PDF).
  19. ^ "Indico" (PDF).
  20. ^ Golwala, Sunil (2011-08-15). GEODM Interest in the SNOLAB Cryopit (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-12-07.

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