The Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Defense Science Office (DSO) is sponsoring a Proposer Day webcast to provide information to potential proposers about the agency’s anticipated Broad Announcement (BAA) for the Muons for Science program and Security (MuS2) . Bid Day will be held via webcast on August 5, 2022 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM. Pre-registration is required to view the webcast. Note that all times stated in this message and on the registration website are Eastern Time.
The objectives of MuS2 Contributor Day are (1) to introduce the research community (contributors, academia, and government) to the vision and goals of the MuS2 program, (2) to explain the mechanics of the DARPA program and the milestones of this particular effort, and (3) encourage and promote teaming arrangements between potential organizations that have the appropriate expertise, facilities, and capabilities to carry out a research and development program meeting the objectives of the MuS2 program.
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The Department of Defense and other federal agencies have sought advanced sources that generate gamma rays, X-rays, neutrons, protons, and electrons to enable a variety of scientific, commercial, and defense applications—from medical diagnostics to scanning cargo containers for hazardous materials to nondestructive test aircraft and their parts to see internal defects. But none of these sources can image through concrete walls several meters thick, map the core of a volcano from the outside, or peer deep underground to discover chambers and tunnels. Such imaging capabilities require a more powerful particle.
DARPA’s Muons for Science & Security (MuS2 – pronounced Mew-S-2) program aims to create a compact source of deeply penetrating subatomic particles known as muons. Muons are similar to electrons, but about 200 times heavier. At high energy, muons can easily pass through tens to hundreds of meters of water, solid rock, or soil. However, producing muons is challenging because it requires a source of very high-energy, giga-electronvolt (GeV) particles. There are currently two main sources of muons. Cosmic ray interactions in the upper atmosphere naturally generate muons as they descend toward Earth in the resulting particle showers. Using these muons for imaging is tedious and not very practical. Cosmic muons have played a role in special projects, such as when scientists used them to image the inner chambers of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Given the small number of muons that reach the Earth’s surface and the different paths they take through the atmosphere, it can take days to months to capture enough muon data to produce meaningful results. Muons can also be generated on earth. But producing muons requires such high-energy particles that production is limited to large physics research facilities such as the Fermilab National Particle Accelerator in Illinois and Europe’s CERN accelerator in Switzerland.
“Our goal is to develop a new, ground-based muon source that does not require large accelerators and allows us to create focused beams of muons at appropriate energies, from 10s to 100s GeVs – for imaging or characterizing materials,” said Mark Wrobel, program manager MuS2 at DARPA’s Defense Science Office. “Enabling this program is high peak power laser technology that is constantly advancing and could potentially enable muon production in a compact form factor. MuS2 will lay the foundations needed to explore the feasibility of developing compact and transportable muon sources.
MuS2 aims to use what is called laser plasma acceleration (LPA) to initially create 10 GeV particles in the space of tens of centimeters compared to the hundreds of meters required for state-of-the-art linear accelerators. Ultimately, MuS2 aims to develop scalable and practical processes to create conditions that can create muons in excess of 100 GeV through innovations in LPA, target design and compact laser driver technology.
Muons are sensitive to changes in density as they penetrate materials, making them particularly advantageous for locating voids in solid structures. If MuS2 and all subsequent efforts are successful, entire buildings could be scanned from the outside to characterize internal structures and detect the presence of threat materials such as special nuclear materials. Other potential applications include rapidly mapping the location of underground tunnels and cameras hundreds of meters below the Earth’s surface.
MuS2 is a four-year program divided into two phases. During the 24-month first phase, teams will conduct initial modeling and scaling studies and use experiments to validate models, as well as attempt to produce 10 GeV muons. In the second 24-month phase, the teams will aim to develop scalable accelerator designs for 100 GeV or more and produce the appropriate number of muons for practical applications.
Given the strong focus on fundamental research, high energy physics and defense applications, MuS2 seeks integrated teams that can holistically investigate practical muon sources. Teams will require expertise in the following areas:
- Experimentation: petawatt level laser facilities, LPA modes and muon target
- Simulation: High Performance Computing, Particle-in-Cell, Monte Carlo, and Multiphysics Modeling
- Laser Driver and Systems Studies: Research into efficient, compact, high repetition rate laser technologies and design studies leading to portable form factor systems
“To address these diverse research areas, we envision building integrated teams composed of academia, national laboratories, and defense industries,” Wrubel said.
Read more at DARPA