Particle Physics and Particle Astrophysics Research

Cosmic rays in nuclear security

Team in Sheffield:

Dr. Vitaly Kudryavtsev
Mr Tim Blackwel, PhD student funded by EPSRC through the Nuclear First DTC run jointly by the Manchester and Sheffield universities

Large world-wide efforts are now focused on improving detection of illicit nuclear materials in portal monitors using cosmic-ray muons. There are already many groups in the US, UK and other countries working on this topic with a number of published papers showing the potential of the technology. The commonly accepted method relies on the muon scattering which depends on the radiation length of the material. There are, however, several problems with this technique: 1) the method has been shown to work with individual material samples but the presence of other materials in a truck can make the identification of the nuclear material difficult; 2) the small number of muons passing through a material per unit time limits the sensitivity of the technique; 3) the muon scattering depends also on the thickness of the material which is not known apriori, making the identification of nuclear materials difficult. Our group focuses the efforts on investigating and improving the sensitivity of the method.

First simulation results of the muon scattering in different materials with Sheffield involvement have been published:

M. S. Mitra, P. K. Sarkar and V. A. Kudryavtsev. Empirical expressions for angular deviation of muons transmitted through slabs of iron, lead and uranium, Nucl. Instrum. and Meth. in Phys Res. A, 604 (2009) 684-693.

We are offering projects for undergraduate students in this area. PhD students with their own funding are welcome to apply.

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