Our current group of research scientists, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students work hands-on with experiments in the Department of Physics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota. Our group collaborates with other liquid noble research groups throughout the United States and Europe.
The Particle Identification in Xenon at Yale (PIXeY) experiment is hosted in our space in the Sloane Physics Lab. With co-PI Dr. Moshe Gai and his graduate student, Nicholas Destefano, of the University of Connecticut, the McKinsey group has designed, built, and tested a prototype two-phase, time-projection, xenon detector. This detector is being developed for use as a gamma ray imaging device, which could be used to identify the gamma signatures of dangerous nuclear materials in shipping containers to ensure the safety and security of our nation’s ports.
The McKinsey group is also heavily involved in the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment. LUX is used to search for the leading particle dark matter candidate, WIMPs, with a two-phase xenon detector. The 350-kg detector has been installed 4850 feet underground in the Davis Campus at SURF and is the most sensitive dark matter detector currently in operation. Professor McKinsey is currently serving as the co-spokesperson of this 120-member collaboration.
Immediately following LUX, the McKinsey group will move on to the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment, adding the expertise of the scientists from UK’s ZEPLIN dark matter experiment to the current LUX collaboration. LZ will be a whopping 7-ton two-phase xenon detector and will also be installed in the Davis Campus at SURF once the current LUX detector has run its course. Work for LZ is already underway here at Yale in the form of background simulations, calibration source research, and the high voltage subsystem design, research, and development. Notably, our high voltage tests at Yale aim to demonstrate an ability to deliver hundreds of kilovolts into a cryogenic liquid noble detector.
Our final area of research represents an unusual approach to particle detection, by observing tracks of metastable helium molecules through the use of laser induced fluorescence. We have demonstrated this technique, imaging clouds of helium molecules produced by ionizing radiation scattering in liquid helium. This method may be well suited for detecting particularly light WIMPs (1-10 GeV), since WIMPs in this mass range will most efficiently transfer their kinetic energy to a light nucleus like helium. In addition, we have shown that metastable helium molecules may be used as tracers to image fluid flow in liquid helium. With NSF funding, we are now developing this technique for the imaging of quantum turbulence dynamics.
Previously, the McKinsey group has been a member of the Cryogenic Low Energy Astrophysics with Noble gases (CLEAN) and XENON10 experiments.