Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay Results from the Firts Year of SNO+

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


Some of the most exciting physics to emerge over the last decade has been in the field of neutrino physics. One of the forefront experiments here has been the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), based in the SNOLAB underground scientific laboratory in Sudbury, Ontario (Canada), which was a recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics. The SNO group at Oxford have played a leading role in solving the "Solar Neutrino Problem" and clearly demonstrating, for the first time, that neutrinos exists as mixed states which allow them to apparently "oscillate" from one type to another. On the heels of this tremendously successful project, a follow-on experiment, SNO+, is being pursued with a remarkably diverse and interesting range of physics objectives. The main objective of this project is to sensitively search for a very rare process called "neutrinoless double beta decay." An observation of this would both permit a determination of the absolute neutrino masses and would establish that neutrinos act as their own antiparticles, which could have significant consequences for our understanding of the matter/antimatter asymmetry in the universe. This area of study is considered to be of extremely high importance in particle physics and the Oxford group has played a fundamental role in establishing the technique that will be used for this search. In addition, other physics goals include studies of low energy solar neutrinos, oscillations of reactor antineutrinos, searches for non-standard modes of nucleon decay, study of geo-neutrinos generated from within the earth, and to act as an important detector for neutrinos from galactic supernovae. The incoming student will work closely with the Oxford SNO+ group, which currently consists of 3 academics, 1 postdoctoral researcher and 5 other PhD students and is part of a larger UK effort, which includes 4 additional institutions: University of Sussex, University of Liverpool, QMUL and University of Lancaster. The UK SNO+ collaborators comprise ~30% of the collaboration and fill many key positions within the project to which the student will also contribute. The head of the Oxford group, Steve Biller, is the UK spokesperson and leads the development effort on tellurium loading techniques in scintillator for neutrinoless double beta decay, where Oxford has made significant contributions and the thesis project will involve an extension of this work. The UK groups jointly have responsibility for delivering one of the major calibration systems for the experiment, the Oxford portion of which focuses on in situ measurements of optical scattering within the detector, and the student's work will also involve analysis related to this system. The main physics effort for the thesis will focus on producing the first results on neutrinoless double beta decay. The detector is currently filled with water and taking production data for associated physics. Liquid scintillator will be introduced in early 2018 and isotope for neutrinoless double beta decay will be introduced in late 2018 or early 2019. The incoming PhD student will participate in development, simulation, calibration, operation, analysis and the production of the "1-year" neutrinoless double beta decay results that will follow.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/R505006/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021
1935451 Studentship ST/R505006/1 01/10/2017 31/03/2021 Iwan Morton-Blake
Description SNO+ 
Organisation Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Worked as PhD student, researching, analysing data and working on-site to help construct the scintillator and Tellurium plants, carry out quality assessment of the scintillator to-be-filled into the detector
Collaborator Contribution They hold and manage the running of the entire neutrino detector
Impact Completed Water Analysis, Transition toward Scintillator Phase and preparations for early impactful results.
Start Year 2017