Purdue University Graduate School
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A Novel Muon Spectrometer Using Multi-Layer Pressurized Gas Cherenkov Radiators for Muon Tomography

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posted on 2022-04-30, 02:08 authored by Junghyun BaeJunghyun Bae

 Nuclear waste management and nonproliferation are among the critical tasks to be addressed for the advancement of nuclear energy in the United States. In this regard, monitoring spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and special nuclear materials (SNM) is important to continue reliable stewardship of SNF management and prevent SNM proliferation. Cosmic ray muons have been used for imaging large and dense objects, e.g., SNF dry casks, the Fukushima Daiichi unit-1 reactor, and the great pyramid of Giza. Despite their potential and success, the wide application of cosmic ray muons is limited by the naturally low intensity at sea level, approximately 104 m-2min-1. For example, when imaging large objects, time consuming measurements typically in the order of several days or even weeks, are frequently needed to collect a statistically significant amount of muon samples to reconstruct images using muon tomography. However, when scanning time is of essence, e.g., treaty verification, low resolution imaging can result in potentially undetected diversion of nuclear materials.

To maximize the utilizability of cosmic ray muons in engineering and physics applications, two important quantities–scattering angle and momentum–must be measured. Although many studies have demonstrated that there are significant benefits when measuring momentum in muon applications, measuring both the muon scattering angle and muon momentum in the field remains a challenge. To fill this critical gap, a novel concept using multi-layer pressurized gas Cherenkov radiators that is fieldable to allow muon momentum measurement in the field is presented in this dissertation. The proposed Cherenkov muon spectrometer is: (i) accurate (~90%) in classifying muon momentum, (ii) lightweight (< 10 kg) for easy transport and deployment in the field, (iii) compact (< 1 m3), and (iv) easily coupled with existing muon tomographic systems. Although muon momentum measurement resolution of spectrometers used in high energy physics laboratories, such as CMS or ATLAS of LHC at CERN, is less than 5% for low energy muons, these spectrometers typically (i) use bulky and large solenoidal or toroidal magnets and (ii) interfere with muon trajectories to measure momentum. These characteristics make them unsuitable for field deployment.

In this work, the feasibility of using the proposed Cherenkov muon spectrometer coupled with current muon tomographic systems is explored and evaluated using Monte Carlo simulations and reconstruction algorithms. It is shown the use of the proposed Cherenkov muon spectrometer has the potential to improve muon tomographic imaging resolution or reduce measurement time by a factor of 10 or more when used to identify a missing fuel assembly from a SNF dry cask. In addition, a new imaging algorithm is developed that integrates muon momentum and muon scattering without significantly increasing computational cost. Advances in momentum-integrated muon tomography have the potential to improve monitoring and imaging efficiency in various nuclear engineering applications. For example, it can expand current capabilities to continue reliable stewardship in nuclear material management, i.e., Continuity of Knowledge, and prevent SNM proliferation to unauthorized states and parties. The benefit of such an approach is a compact, lightweight, and portable spectrometer that can be deployed in the field to improve existing or explore new engineering applications: muon tomography, geological studies, and cosmic radiation measurement in space.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Nuclear Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Stylianos Chatzidakis

Additional Committee Member 2

Lefteri Tsoukalas

Additional Committee Member 3

Yunlin Xu

Additional Committee Member 4

Wei Xie