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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cherenkov and transition radiation as low-energy background sources in SuperCDMS detectors Li, Ashley


The Weakly Interacting Massive Particle (WIMP) has historically been a prime candidate for dark matter due to its elegant compatibility with the Minimally Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM). Recent dark matter experiments have ruled out much of the GeV~TeV mass range predicted by the MSSM, however, and the newest generation of direct detection experiments, such as SuperCDMS SNOLAB, have begun to explore sub-GeV dark matter. As experiments push towards lower masses, sensitivity to eV-scale electron recoil events has become increasingly important. A variety of unexplained excesses at energy deposits of 1~100 eV have been found in many such low-mass experiments, across different detection techniques and at different excess rates. These low-energy events are not thought to be dark matter, and they must be understood and effectively removed to further improve detector energy resolution. This thesis will outline the simulation of one possible source of low-energy excess at SuperCDMS: optical photons produced from charges in uniform motion, specifically from Cherenkov radiation (CR), transition radiation (TR), and the intermediate hybrid transition-Cherenkov radiation (HR). In the latter case, the standard formulae for HR contain divergences at certain angles in transparent media, which are an artifact of their derivation and become problematic to simulate. To resolve this, we present a novel approach to normalize the divergent HR peaks, which allows HR to transition smoothly between TR and CR in a numerical simulation. We also add TR and CR as a physics process to the SuperCDMS Monte Carlo simulation package SuperSim, based on the Geant4 simulation toolkit. To verify the physics of our addition, we show some test simulations in comparison to theoretical predictions of optical radiation intensity. We also use the simulation to make some preliminary predictions on the contribution of TR and CR to the low energy background, with the expectation that more thorough analyses will be conducted in the future.

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