| Columbia University|
Noble Gas Detectors
| March 12, 1954
Milan, Italy (1954-03-12) |
XENON Dark Matter Search
University of Naples Federico II, University of Geneva
Elena Aprile Wikipedia
Elena Aprile (born March 12, 1954 in Milan) is an Italian experimental particle physicist. She has been a Professor of Physics at Columbia University since 1986. She is the founder and Spokesperson of the XENON Dark Matter Experiment since 2002. Aprile is well known for her work with noble liquid detectors, and for her contributions to particle astrophysics in the search for dark matter.
Aprile studied physics at the University of Naples and did a masters thesis at CERN under the supervision of Professor Carlo Rubbia. After receiving her Laurea degree in 1978, she enrolled as a student at the University of Geneva from which she received the Ph.D. in Physics in 1982. She moved to Harvard University in 1983 as a postdoctoral researcher in Carlo Rubbia's group. In 1986, Aprile started her faculty career at Columbia University. She became a full professor in 2001. From 2003 to 2009, Aprile served as co-Director of the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory.
Aprile is a specialist in noble liquid detectors and their application in particle physics and astrophysics. She began working on liquid argon detectors as a graduate student at CERN, and later as postdoctoral researcher at Harvard. At Columbia she continued her studies on the properties of noble liquids for radiation spectroscopy and imaging in astrophysics. This work led to the realization of the first liquid xenon Time Projection Chamber (LXeTPC) as a Compton telescope for MeV gamma rays. From 1996 to 2001, Aprile was spokesperson of the NASA sponsored Liquid Xenon Gamma-Ray Imaging Telescope (LXeGRIT) project, leading the first engineering test of the telescope in the near-space environment and subsequent science campaigns with long-duration balloon flights. LXeGRIT used a liquid xenon time projection chamber as a Compton telescope for imaging cosmic sources in the 0.15 - 10 MeV energy band. A total of about 36 hours of data have been accumulated with the LXeTPC from two long-duration flights in 1999 and 2000, at an average altitude of 39 km.
Since 2001, Aprile’s research focus shifted to particle astrophysics, specifically to dark matter direct detection with liquid xenon. She is the founder and spokesperson of the XENON dark matter experiment, which aims to discover WIMPs as they scatter off xenon atoms in massive yet ultra-low background liquid xenon detectors operated deep underground. Using a two-phase (liquid/gas) Time Projection Chamber with active target mass ranging from tens to hundreds of kilograms, the XENON project has operated the XENON10 and XENON100 detectors at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory, leading the field with the best sensitivity and the most competitive limits on WIMP-nucleon interaction cross-sections. The XENON100 detector has been in operation since 2009, and the construction of the next-generation detector, XENON1T is near completion. With an active xenon mass larger than 3000 kg, XENON1T is expected to start operation by the end of 2015, to become the first experiment for dark matter detection at the tonne-scale. With the increased mass and hundred times lower background than XENON100, the new XENON1T will be able to probe dark matter interactions with ordinary matter at the 10−47 cm2 level for a particle mass of 50 GeV/c2.
Aprile received the National Science Foundation Career Award in 1991, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Award in 1999. She has been a Fellow of the American Physical Society since 2000. In 2005 she received the medal of Ufficiale della Republica Italiana from the Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.