Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Christopher B. Crawford


Free neutron and nuclear beta decay spectroscopy serves as a robust laboratory for investigations of the Standard Model of Particle Physics. Observables such as decay product angular correlations and energy spectra overconstrain the Standard Model and serve as a sensitive probe for Beyond the Standard Model physics. Improved measurement of these quantities is necessary to complement the TeV scale physics being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider. The UCNB, 45Ca, and Nab experiments aim to improve upon existing measurements of free neutron decay angular correlations and set new limits in the search for exotic couplings in beta decay. To achieve these experimental goals, a highly-pixelated, thick silicon detector with a 100 nm entrance window has been developed for precision beta spectroscopy and the direct detection of 30 keV beta decay protons. The detector has been characterized for its performance in energy reconstruction and particle arrival time determination. A Monte Carlo simulation of signal formation in the silicon detector and propagation through the electronics chain has been written to develop optimal signal analysis algorithms for minimally biased energy and timing extraction. A tagged-electron timing test has been proposed and investigated as a means to assess the validity of these Monte Carlo efforts.

A universal platform for data acquisition (DAQ) has been designed and implemented in National Instrument's PXIe-5171R digitizer/FPGA hardware. The DAQ retains a ring buffer of the most recent 400 ms of data in all 256 channels, so that a waveform trace can be returned from any combination of pixels and resolution for complete energy reconstruction. Low-threshold triggers on individual channels were implemented in FPGA as a generic piecewise-polynomial filter for universal, real-time digital signal processing, which allows for arbitrary filter implementation on a pixel-by-pixel basis. This system is universal in the sense that it has complete flexible, complex, and debuggable triggering at both the pixel and global level without recompiling the firmware. The culmination of this work is a system capable of a 10 keV trigger threshold, 3 keV resolution, and maximum 300 ps arrival time systematic, even in the presence of large amplitude noise components.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This material is based upon work supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Physics under Award Numbers DE-SC0008107 and DE-SC0014622.