SNOLAB - Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Laboratory

Following on the success of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), culminating with the award of the 2015 Noble Prize in Physics, the SNO underground laboratory has been expanded to the new SNOLAB facility which includes new experimental halls and infrastructure.  SNOLAB is designed to house a variety of experiments that will investigate the properties of the fundamental constituents of the universe including neutrinos and dark matter.

More information about SNOLAB is available at:

The SNOLAB group at Carleton has research positions available associated with the EXO and DEAP collaborations.

EXO collaboration: Search for neutrinoless double beta decay

The EXO collaboration is developing detector techniques that will facilitate a precision search for the rare process known as neutrinoless double beta decay. A definitive discovery of this process would provide new information on the properties of neutrinos and, in particular, would provide a first measurement of the neutrino mass scale. The EXO-200 experiment, a 200 kg liquid-phase physics detector near Carlsbad, New Mexico, has completed data taking and recently published the most sensitive limits for the search. The design of nEXO, a much larger enriched xenon detector, is under development towards installation at SNOLAB. The development of xenon enrichment techniques and xenon detector prototypes is also ongoing at Carleton.

The Carleton group focuses on the following activities towards nEXO:

  • Detailed Monte Carlo simulations and analysis to predict the nEXO response and sensitivity to discovering neutrinoless double beta decay
  • Development of silicon photomultipliers (SiPM) with high detection efficiency, to be operated directly in liquid xenon at cryogenic temperature
  • Research and development on high voltage in noble liquid detectors, specifically time projection chambers (TPC)

nEXO contacts:
Professor Razvan Gornea, Department of Physics, Carleton University
Professor Simon Viel, Department of Physics, Carleton University

EXO collaboration: Identification of barium isotopes using optical methods

As part of this project the interested students will work on the design, construction, characterization and performance evaluation of the Carleton-proposed barium-tagging system. In particular they will contribute to the development of an experimental setup that will allow the separation of charged barium isotopes under the means of a quadrupole mass spectrometer which will then be ported into an ion trap. There the isotopes will be optically identified using ultra-stable CW lasers through a phenomena known as the two-photon resonance. Through this work the student will develop valuable skills in handling basic ion manipulation hardware (including RF components), in assembling and operating high vacuum lines and diagnostics, in operating and maintaining state of the art lasers and optical lines, in programming and communicating with scientific instrumentation (e.g. through the use of LabView and/or C++ based proprietary software), in diagnosing and fixing operational problems and in understanding the physics of barium-ion handling and detection including important aspects of its atomic structure.

EXO barium-tagging contacts:
Professor Razvan Gornea, Department of Physics, Carleton University
Professor Thomas Koffas, Department of Physics, Carleton University

DEAP collaboration: Search for dark matter with DEAP-3600

The DEAP collaboration has installed DEAP-3600, a large liquid argon detector at SNOLAB to search directly for dark matter. The experiment is currently taking data, and is presently the most sensitive liquid argon detector in operation. The detector utilizes scintillation signals produced in the argon, wavelength-shifted using a layer of tetraphenyl butadiene (TPB) and detected with an array of photomultiplier tubes (PMT). Current efforts at Carleton focus on detector operation and data analysis.

Undergraduate student research projects are offered on data analysis and detector Monte Carlo simulations using C++ and Python, with the goal of calibrating the detector, understanding the types of events observed, and improving the sensitivity of the dark matter search. Students will also contribute to DEAP-3600 operations with shifts for the monitoring and maintenance of the detector.

DEAP-3600 contacts:
Professor Mark Boulay, Department of Physics, Carleton University
Professor Kevin Graham, Department of Physics, Carleton University
Professor Simon Viel, Department of Physics, Carleton University

DEAP collaboration: Research and development towards future dark matter detectors

Members of the DEAP collaboration have also joined the Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration, working towards the construction of larger, more sensitive liquid argon detectors to search for dark matter. The first such detector, DarkSide-20k, is scheduled for installation at Gran Sasso National Laboratory (Italy), with a target mass above 20 tonnes. Then the community plans to build a 400-tonnes liquid argon detector, with ultimate world-leading sensitivity to weakly interacting massive particles.

Students on this project will work on the following activities:

  • Research and development of silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) devices operating at cryogenic temperature with ability to detect scintillation light from liquid argon
  • Design studies using Monte Carlo simulations, to maximise the sensitivity of future liquid argon experiments to observe dark matter

DEAP future liquid argon detector contacts:
Professor Mark Boulay, Department of Physics, Carleton University
Professor Simon Viel, Department of Physics, Carleton University



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