Posted: Feb 16, 2013 12:46 pm
by lpetrich
The link: Dirty bomb terror threat breakthrough: British scientists build machine to detect smuggling of nuclear materials - Crime - UK - The Independent

From the looks of it, it makes muons, which are a flavor of electron about 207 times more massive than familiar electrons.

I'm guessing that it works by accelerating electrons at a target, where colliding electrons make muons by pair production. Other products are then filtered out with shielding and/or magnetic fields, and the muons continue to what they will be probing.

I can't tell from the description how it will work. Will the muons simply scatter off the electric fields of the nuclei like some glorified Rutherford experiment? Or will the muons cause some spallation on the nuclei themselves? Spallation could produce gamma rays from decaying nuclei, and also neutrons, both of which are relatively penetrating.