Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Christopher B. Crawford


Probes of the Standard Model of particle physics are pushing further and further into the so-called “precision frontier”. In order to reach the precision goals of these experiments, a combination of elegant experimental design and robust data acquisition and analysis is required. Two experiments that embody this philosophy are the Nab and Calcium-45 experiments. These experiments are probing the understanding of the weak interaction by examining the beta decay of the free neutron and Calcium-45 respectively. They both aim to measure correlation parameters in the neutron beta decay alphabet, a and b. The parameter a, the electron-neutrino correlation coefficient, is sensitive to λ, the ratio of the axial-vector and vector coupling strengths in the decay of the free neutron. This parameter λ, in tandem with a precision measurement of the neutron lifetime τ , provides a measurement of the matrix element Vud from the CKM quark mixing matrix. The CKM matrix, as a rotation matrix, must be unitary. Probes of Vud and Vus in recent years have revealed tension in this unitarity at the 2.2σ level. The measurement of a via decay of free cold neutrons serves as an additional method of extraction for Vud that is sensitive to a different set of systematic effects and as such is an excellent probe into the source of the deviation from unitarity. The parameter b, the Fierz interference term, appears as a distortion in the mea- sured electron energy spectra from beta decay. This parameter, if non-zero, would indicate the existence of Scalar and/or Tensor couplings in the Weak interaction which according to the Standard Model is purely Vector minus Axial-Vector. This is therefore a search for physics beyond the standard model, BSM, physics search. The Nab and Calcium-45 experiments probe these parameters with a combination of elegant experimental design and brute force collection and analysis of large amounts of digitized detector data. These datasets, particularly in the case of the Nab experiment, are anticipated to span multiple petabytes of data and will require high performance online analysis and precision offline analysis routines in order to reach the experimental goals. Of particular note are the requirements for better than 3 keV energy resolution and an understanding of the uncertainty in the mean timing bias for the detected particles within 300 ps. Presented in this dissertation is an overview of the experiments and their design, a description of the data acquisition systems and analysis routines that have been developed to support the experiments, and a discussion of the data analysis performed for the Calcium-45 experiment.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This work is funded in part by the Department of Energy under contract DE-SC0014622 from 2017 to 2022.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program. The SCGSR program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education for the DOE under contract number DE‐SC0014664. This was for the period of 2020 - 2021.

This material was also funded in part by the MacAdam Graduate Excellence Fellowship from 2021 to 2022.