Popular Science names muon tomography a
2010 best invention
Muon tomography, a Los Alamos invention that images cargo and vehicles for threat materials such as uranium or plutonium using cosmic ray muons, has been named one of the 100 best inventions of 2010 by Popular Science magazine.
The technology, now incorporated into the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System, is due to be installed at specific U.S. and international ports this year through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between Los Alamos and the California security company Decision Sciences International Corporation.
Los Alamos researchers developed tomography using muons (naturally occurring subatomic particles produced by the interaction of cosmic rays in the atmosphere), to rapidly and reliably identify and locate radioactive materials. This technology detects security threats concealed deeply within cargo containers or occupied vehicles even if they are shielded by lead; unlike other technologies, it can locate and report the threats without exposing operators or examined objects to dangerous radiation.
The Laboratory developed detectors and algorithms to trace the muons’ path. The muon tomography scanner plots the incoming muons’ initial trajectories, then registers all outgoing muons on the opposite side and correlates them to the first measurements. Using advanced software to collect data images from a muon tomography scanner, the system alerts the operator and generates a three-dimensional image map indicating a precise location of the threat.
Los Alamos researchers include Chris Morris (Subatomic Physics, P-25), Chuck Alexander, Jeff Bacon, Ethan Baer, Debbie Clark, Camilo Espinoza, Jackie Gonzalez, Andrew Green, Steve Greene, Gary Hogan, Rosin Langan, Mark Makela, Pat McGaughey, Matthew Murray, Fawn Pazuchanics, Michael Phelps, John Ramsey, Nathan Remus, Jonathan D. Roybal, and Ryota Shimada (all P-25); Dan Coughlin and Larry Schultz (Applied Modern Physics, P-21); Phillip Sanchez and Juanito Sandoval (Plasma Physics, P-24); Michael Brockwell (Space Instrumentational Design, AET-4); Konstanin Borozdin and Richard Schirato (Space Science & Applications, ISR-1); Richard Espinosa (Space Data Systems, ISR-3); Kiwhan Chung (Safeguards Science and Technology, N-1); Erica Sullivan (Technology Transfer, TT); and Mike Sossong (X-1-TA). Laboratory Research and Development (LDRD) funded the initial research.
Scanning devices using muon tomography technology detect nuclear weapons or explosives in cargo and vehicle traffic.