Quenching and Channeling of Nuclear Recoils in NaI[Tl]: Implications for Dark Matter Searches
A new experimental evaluation of the quenching factor for nuclear recoils in NaI[Tl] is described. Systematics affecting previous measurements are addressed by careful characterization of the emission spectrum of the neutron source, use of a small scintillator coupled to an ultra-bialkali high quantum efficiency photomultiplier, and evaluation of non-linearities in the electron recoil response via Compton scattering. A trend towards a rapidly diminishing quenching factor with decreasing sodium recoil energy is revealed. Additionally, no evidence for crystal lattice channeling of low-energy recoiling ions is found in a scintillator of known crystallographic orientation. A discussion on how these findings affect dark matter searches employing NaI[Tl] (e.g., DAMA/LIBRA) is offered.