Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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What Is Muon Vision?

Los Alamos’s unique muon vision measures muon scattering and “sees” materials otherwise hidden from view.
December 1, 2016
What Is Muon Vision?

A lead box can be differentiated from smuggled uranium and from sacks of cement inside a shipping container.


  • Managing Editor
  • Clay Dillingham
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By detecting enough scattered muons, the computer software can identify the shape of a heavy material.

Muons are subatomic particles created when very high-energy cosmic-ray particles from outer space collide with atomic nuclei in the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

Muons travel at nearly the speed of light and rain down on Earth’s surface from random locations and random directions; every second, 100 muons hit each square yard of Earth’s surface. Their tremendous energy enables them to penetrate most objects and even travel hundreds of feet into Earth’s crust. Yet, muons compose fewer than 10 percent of all background radiation and are harmless to people.