Muographers 2019: General Assembly Report

Striking a balance between focusing on strengthening the core projects that have been the foundation upon which muography has been built with the need to expand the capabilities and application of this technique to new areas (opening the community to new topics and new researchers) is a challenge as muography begins to reach its next stage of development. During the Muographers 2019 General Assembly program 17 presenters (including researchers from the nuclear physics, particle physics geophysics, astrophysics, volcanology, planetary geology, and engineering fields) represented academic and industrial muography projects from Italy, Hungary, Chile, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan and gathered to share developments and suggest ideas for growth in this burgeoning frontier science.

Held prior to the signing ceremony at the residence of the Ambassador of Chile to Japan, the first day of the Muographers General Assembly had 2 sessions: Outer Space Muography and Technical Developments in Muography. Past efforts to jump start programs for outer space muography projects were assessed and contrasted with the more promising conditions for growth that exist now. There was an emphasis on the significance of a recent successful experiment with muon detector technology completed on the International Space Station may be a foundation for further experiments and how economics, proposal writing, international and cross-disciplinary cooperation and addressing the concerns of the general public play a role in this strategy.

Speakers in this first session ranged from volcanology, geophysics, planetary geology and nuclear physics. Some of the topics of these talks included contrasts between the space programs of Chile, USA and Japan, specific stellar body, planetary and atmospheric targets suited to muography investigation and how muography can contribute to our knowledge about the geology of other planets and the Earth; most importantly, participants debated on various methodologies for moving these ideas forward from the conceptual stage to reality.

Overviews of technical developments issues including updating detector technology and methods, reducing costs, improving power efficiency, enhancing time resolution capabilities and better analysis of data were given after this session and discussions about how these factors contribute to the success of all muography experiments worldwide.

The second day of the Muographers General Assembly took place at Hotel Chizanso, Tokyo and had 3 sessions: Volcano Muography, Social Infrastructure Muography, and an additional Technical Developments in Muography session.

Volcanos were the first targets that were successfully imaged by muography.  Since then there has been a worldwide effort to gather information locally, share it with researchers worldwide, and build upon the success of other experiments to improve the existing technology; with this approach, researchers aim to create strategies to maintain accuracy, low cost and efficiency standards of experiments throughout all the stages of the experiments: simulation, laboratory experiments and fieldwork. Lately there has been more interest and participation from the volcanology and geophyicist communities in volcano muography projects and there were discussions on how to foster this positive trend so that together researchers can adapt the capabilities of muography to create a more practical tool for new discoveries and to improve public safety. 

As the security of countries worldwide continue to be hampered by growing concerns over potential failures of social infrastructure maintenance, public safety, economics, and efficiency, it is imperative that researchers continue to develop strategies to utilize the unique properties of muography towards solving some of these problems. A key recent movement towards more effective study of social infrastructure has been to take muography out of the purely academic arena and being it into people’s daily lives with the industrial/academic partnerships has resulted in considerable growth in the last 2 years. With this in mind, presenters discussed their experiences applying muography to diverse topics including: an ancient Japanese burial mound, nuclear waste monitoring, railway tunnels and highway infrastructure targets.

In the final session, Technical Developments in Muography, presentators continued the discussions on issues started the previous day by sharing their experiences with the tasks of improving the effectiveness of the techniques, comparing the detector technology, simulations and algorythms, effective strategies that have improved the situation and plans for future developments.  Topics included the design of 2 different kinds of muography detectors (from France and Japan) that were used in the ScanPyramids project, a new detector system for the investigation of an industrial furnace, methods for utilizing lower energy muons, the challenges of engineering high precision, high performance gigantic detectors for larger experiments (with application to, for example, nuclear waste detection) verses more portable, cost-effective, power-efficient detectors (with application to, for example, geological studies). Lively discussions were generated on the topic of balancing the need to deliver high resolution images in the shortest time period possible with cost and portability, how risks of equipment failure, inaccurate data collection and adverse field conditions can be reduced and how the options available might be matched to experimental goals in order to deliver the best results for academic and/or commercial muography research in the wide range of targets that are being investigated today.