Electron-interacting dark matter: Implications from DAMA/LIBRA-phase2 and prospects for liquid xenon detectors and NaI detectors

B. M. Roberts, V. V. Flambaum, Phys. Rev. D 100, 063017 (2019)



We investigate the possibility for the direct detection of low mass (GeV scale) WIMP dark matter in scintillation experiments. Such WIMPs are typically too light to leave appreciable nuclear recoils, but may be detected via their scattering off atomic electrons. In particular, the DAMA Collaboration [R. Bernabei et al., Nucl. Phys. At. Energy 19, 307 (2018)] has recently presented strong evidence of an annual modulation in the scintillation rate observed at energies as low as 1 keV. Despite a strong enhancement in the calculated event rate at low energies, we find that an interpretation in terms of electron-interacting WIMPs cannot be consistent with existing constraints. We also demonstrate the importance of correct treatment of the atomic wavefunctions, and show the resulting event rate is very sensitive to the low-energy performance of the detectors, meaning it is crucial that the detector uncertainties be taken into account. Finally, we demonstrate that the potential scintillation event rate can be much larger than may otherwise be expected, meaning that competitive searches can be performed for m_chi ~ 1 GeV scale WIMPs using the conventional prompt (S1) scintillation signals. This is important given the recent and upcoming very large liquid xenon detectors.

Written on 1 September 2019