AbstractThe nature of the neutrino is one of the major open questions in experimental nuclear and particle physics. The most sensitive known method to establish the Majorana nature of the neutrino is detection of the ultra-rare process of neutrinoless double beta decay. However, identification of one or a handful of decay events within a large mass of candidate isotope, without obfuscation by backgrounds is a formidable experimental challenge. One hypothetical method for achieving ultra- low-background neutrinoless double beta decay sensitivity is the detection of single 136Ba ions produced in the decay of 136Xe (“barium tagging”). To implement such a method, a single-ion-sensitive barium detector must be developed and demonstrated in bulk liquid or dry gaseous xenon. This paper reports on the development of two families of dry-phase barium chemosensor molecules for use in high pressure xenon gas detectors, synthesized specifically for this purpose. One particularly promising candidate, an anthracene substituted aza-18-crown-6 ether, is shown to respond in the dry phase with almost no intrinsic background from the unchelated state, and to be amenable to barium sensing through f luorescence microscopy. This interdisciplinary advance, paired with earlier work demonstrating sensitivity to single barium ions in solution, opens a new path toward single ion detection in high pressure xenon gas.
Published: April 20, 2022