Directional Antineutrino Detection

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Benjamin Ryan Safdi1,2 and Junast Suerfu2, (1)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Physics, Cambridge, MA, United States, (2)Princeton University, Physics, Princeton, NJ, United States
We propose the first truly directional antineutrino detector for antineutrinos near the threshold for the inverse beta decay (IBD) of hydrogen, with potential applications including the spatial mapping of geo-neutrinos, searches for stellar antineutrinos, and the monitoring of nuclear reactors. The detector consists of adjacent and separated target and neutron-capture layers. The IBD events, which result in a neutron and a positron, take place in the target layers. These layers are thin enough so that the neutrons escape without scattering elastically. The neutrons are detected in the thicker neutron-capture layers. The location of the IBD event is determined from the energy deposited by the positron as it slows in the medium and from the two gamma rays that come from the positron annihilation. Since the neutron recoils in the direction of the antineutrino's motion, a line may then be drawn between the IBD event location and the neutron-capture location to approximate the antineutrino's velocity. In some events, we may even measure the positron's velocity, which further increases our ability to reconstruct the antineutrino's direction of motion.

Our method significantly improves upon previous methods by allowing the neutron to freely travel a long distance before diffusing and being captured. Moreover, our design is a straightforward modification of existing antineutrino detectors; a prototype could easily be built with existing technology. We verify our design through Monte Carlo simulations in Geant4, using commercially-available boron-loaded plastic scintillators for the target and neutron-capture layer materials. We are able to discriminate from background using multiple coincidence signatures within a short, ~microsecond time interval. We conclude that the detector could likely operate above ground with minimal shielding.