Accurate electron-recoil ionization factors for dark matter direct detection in xenon, krypton and argon

A. R. Caddell, V. V. Flambaum, and B. M. Roberts, Phys. Rev. D 108, 083030 (2023)

doi: 10.1103/PhysRevD.108.083030


While most scintillation-based dark matter experiments search for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), a sub-GeV WIMP-like particle may also be detectable in these experiments. While dark matter of this type and scale would not leave appreciable nuclear recoil signals, it may instead induce ionization of atomic electrons. Accurate modelling of the atomic wavefunctions is key to investigating this possibility, with incorrect treatment leading to a large suppression in the atomic excitation factors. We have calculated these atomic factors for argon, krypton and xenon and present the tabulated results for use with a range of dark matter models. This is made possible by the separability of the atomic and dark matter form factor, allowing the atomic factors to be calculated for general couplings; we include tables for vector, scalar, pseudovector, and pseudoscalar electron couplings. Additionally, we calculate electron impact total ionization cross sections for xenon using the tabulated results as a test of accuracy. Lastly, we provide an example calculation of the event rate for dark matter scattering on electrons in XENON1T and show that these calculations depend heavily on how the low-energy response of the detector is modelled.

Written on 26 October 2023