Solar and Sterile Neutrino Physics with the Raghavan Optical Lattice

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Virginia Tech

The neutrino is, by its nature, an elusive particle that requires massive detectors with small backgrounds to capture a handful of events. Nevertheless, neutrino experiments stand at the heart of the current mysteries of particle physics and astrophysics. These include the origin and size of neutrino mass, the existence of additional types of neutrinos, CP violation and the matter--antimatter asymmetry, the amount of metals in the Sun's core, and the existence of non-nuclear energy sources in the Sun. This dissertation concerns the the use of a novel detector technology, the Raghavan Optical Lattice (ROL), in the Low-Energy Neutrino Spectrometer (LENS) and Neutrino Lattice (NuLat) experiments. LENS will measure the solar neutrino luminosity and the Sun's core metallicity using a ROL with indium-loaded liquid scintillator. NuLat will probe the existence of light sterile neutrinos with masses of $ \sim 1,\mathrm{eV} $ using a ROL made from $ ^{6}\mathrm{Li} $-loaded plastic scintillator. For LENS we present an overview of the experiment and the present the ROL construction results from the LENS R\andD program. In particular we will present results from the micro- and mini-LENS prototypes. For both LENS and NuLat we present the development of an event reconstruction algorithm for ROLs and we apply these to the expected signals for these experiments. For NuLat we present an overview of the experiment including its theory of operation and its sensitivity to sterile neutrino oscillations. Finally, we present work toward the full-sized NuLat detector through bench-top tests and construction of the NuLat demonstrator.

Solar Neutrinos, Sterile Neutrinos, Raghavan Optical Lattice, Li-loaded plastic scintillator