Dark matter limits from a 15 kg windowless bubble chamber

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The COUPP collaboration has successfully used bubble chambers, a technology previously applied only to high-energy physics experiments, as direct dark matter detectors. It has produced the world’s most stringent spin-dependent WIMP limits, and increasingly competitive spin-independent limits. These limits were achieved by capitalizing on an intrinsic rejection of the gamma background that all other direct detection experiments must address through high-density shielding and empirically-determined data cuts. The history of COUPP, including its earliest prototypes and latest results, is briefly discussed in this thesis. The feasibility of a new, windowless bubble chamber concept simpler and more inexpensive in design is discussed here as well. The dark matter limits achieved with a 15 kg windowless chamber, larger than any previous COUPP chamber (2 kg, 4 kg), are presented. Evidence of the greater radiopurity of synthetic quartz compared to natural is presented using the data from this 15 kg device, the first chamber to be made from synthetic quartz. The effective reconstruction of the three-dimensional positions of bubbles in a highly distorted optical field, with ninety-degree bottom lighting similar to cloud chamber lighting, is demonstrated. Another innovation described in this thesis is the use of the sound produced by bubbles recorded by an array of piezoelectric sensors as the primary means of bubble detection. In other COUPP chambers, cameras have been used as the primary trigger. Previous work on bubble acoustic signature differentiation using piezos is built upon in order to further demonstrate the ability to discriminate between alpha- and neutron-induced events.