Dark Matter Searches with the LZ Experiment at Penn State

Project: Research project

Project Details


The nature of dark matter is considered one of the most important questions in physics today. A wealth of evidence indicates that 85% of the matter of the universe is composed of dark matter, yet it remains an enigma. Liquid Xe detectors have been a game changer in the field of dark matter detection, bringing about astonishing improvements in sensitivity over the past decade. The LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment has constructed a next generation dark matter detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota, using a dual-phase time projection chamber with 7 tons of active liquid xenon. The experiment aims to achieve sensitivity to weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) with a WIMP-nucleon cross section of 1.4x10-48 cm2 for a 40 GeV/c2 WIMP mass in 1000 live-days. LZ started its first science run at the end of 2021, and released its first WIMP search results with an exposure of 60 live days using a fiducial mass of 5.5 tons. These results set new limits on spin-independent and spin-dependent WIMP-nucleon cross-sections for WIMP masses above 9 GeV/c2. De Viveiros' group at Penn State worked on the commissioning and operations of the LZ detector, making vital contributions to the critical operations leading up to the start of the science run. With the start of the science run, we directed our efforts to achieving the science goals of the LZ experiment, and produced the crucial background models used to obtain the main goal of the experiment, the WIMP dark matter search results. Our work focuses on development of simulations and analysis software, data quality monitoring during operations, measurement and monitoring of critical internal xenon backgrounds, such as Rn and Kr, production of background models for statistical analysis of potential signals, and working on the analysis of the science run data to test new dark matter candidates and search for new physics.

Effective start/end date7/1/233/31/25


  • High Energy Physics: $50,000.00


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