What is CEvNS?

Coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering, or CEvNS (pronounced sevens), is a process well understood within the Standard Model of particle physics. As the name suggests, CEvNS is the process of a neutrino scattering from a nucleus in a coherent and elastic way. Because the neutrino ‘sees’ the entire nucleus, the CEvNS cross section is quite large, making it capable of being seen with table-top sized detectors. Unfortunately, this means that the only detectable signature is an incredibly low energy nuclear recoil, akin to detecting an elephant recoiling after being bumped by a mosquito. CEvNS remained undetected for nearly 50 years following Freedman’s initial proposal of the process due to the difficult technical requirements: low detector thresholds with large target masses, incredibly low backgrounds, and an intense neutrino source. But all the pieces finally came together at ORNL’s Neutrino Alley, located at the Spallation Neutron Source, when the COHERENT experiment made the first observation of CEvNS.