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Research Highlight

Towards a Background-Free Measurement: Making Low-Background Materials with Light

We normally think of scintillators as materials which produce light, but what if light could also be used to produce these materials?  Michael Febbraro and Brennan Hackett have been investigating low-background materials which will make up the core of the ton-scale LEGEND neutrinoless double beta decay experiment.  The heart of the experiment revolves around the enriched 76Ge detectors and the low-background components which allow them to operate.  These low-background components pass through multiple stages of manufacturing from raw materials to precision components of the LEGEND experiment, each of these stages poses its own risk of potential radio contamination.  Additive manufacturing, however, provides a new method for processing these components.  Laser-based stereolithography 3D printing allows for the production of high-precision components down to the 10s of micron scale. Moreover, laser-based stereolithography 3D printing also provides a contactless manufacturing technique where materials are produced using only laser light. There is no need for injection molding, CNC machining, hydraulic forming, or other fabrication processes which come in contact with the material. This eliminates a number of steps required to go from raw material to a final detector component and therefore significantly reduces the risk of contamination throughout the process.  Also, due to the low overhead associated with laser-based stereolithography 3D printing, fabrication can be performed at the experimental site further reducing the risks of potential radio contamination.  Looking beyond neutrinoless double beta decay, this new class of materials may find applications in dark matter searches and neutrino physics experiments.