Axion dark matter and two-neutrino double electron capture searches in the Large Underground Xenon experiment
Marzioni, Maria Francesca
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The hunt for Dark Matter plays a truly critical role in contemporary physics. At both the largest and smallest scales, deep questions are being raised about the fundamental nature of the universe - questions that confirmation and then characterisation of particle dark matter will provide many answers to. This thesis presents some of the world's most sensitive searches to date for certain types of axion dark matter, axion-like particles, and two-neutrino double electron capture. These have been conducted using the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment. Evidence for dark matter and physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics is described in Chapter 1, while Chapter 2 gives an overview of proposed candidates for particle dark matter. The various experimental approaches being used to detect particle dark matter are presented in Chapter 3. Direct detection with time projection chambers plays a major role in this thesis, with particular interest in the LUX detector, that is described in its components and operations. Chapter 4 presents LUX direct searches for weakly interacting massive particles. Although I have contributed to these analyses, they are included for completeness only, as they are not part of my central work. The LUX collaboration's searches for axion dark matter and axion-like particle have delivered world-leading results on the axion-electron coupling constant. These results, that I personally led and which have been published in Physics Review Letters, are presented in Chapter 5, along with sensitivity studies, also led by me, made for the future LUX-ZEPLIN experiment. Finally, a search for two-neutrino double electron capture of 124Xe, that I performed using LUX data to extract a limit on the half life of the process, is presented in Chapter 6. Although being allowed by the Standard Model, two-neutrino double electron capture shares the matrix element calculation framework with the neutrinoless channel of the same process, becoming of great interest in the scope of neutrino physics. Conclusions follow and close the thesis.