Security and Environmental Protection

CMS Knowledge Transfer,muon tomography,border control,homeland security
Simulated image of a truck being inspected in a cargo scanner using muon scattering tomography. (Image: CMTp)


Spare parts from the CMS are being used to study how muons can help keep our cities and environment safer and more secure.


A group in Padova, Italy, at the INFN National Laboratory of Legnaro is heading the Cosmic Muon Tomography project (CMTp). They have obtained two spare drift tube chambers from the CMS to use in experiments using muon scattering tomography (MST).

There are many potential applications of cosmic muon detection using several techniques, including MST, from homeland security and industry to environmental protection and building stability monitoring. For example, MST cargo scanners have been installed in Freeport, Bahamas, to detect contraband trying to enter the port. Other cities are following their lead. These portals use cosmic ray muons and drift tube technology to scan the contents of a truck or container quickly and reliably so as not to disrupt the flow of the transport chain.

Another very promising application of MST is related to the control of spent nuclear fuel containers. Nuclear fuel bundles, once used in a nuclear reactor, must be permanently sealed in special containers and stored in secure sites since they can still be used to build nuclear weapons. As of now, we do not have a way to inspect the contents of storage containers without opening them and risking harm. But the CMTp has shown, based on simulated cosmic muons that cross both the containers and dedicated muon detectors, that it is possible to devise a method to detect or exclude the presence of fuel bundles.

The research being done by CMTp and similar groups will be invaluable in furthering the field of muon tomography. Its many uses give incredible potential to solve many of today’s looming problems.

CMS Technology Transfer,Cosmic Muon ,Tomography
The MST scanner at the INFN National Laboratory of Legnaro near Padova. (Image: CMTp)

Find out more:

Contact person: Dr. Paolo Checchia, INFN Padova