DARPA to explore potential for enhanced imaging capabilities

By Briana Reilly / July 25, 2022 at 12:24 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to kick-start a program to generate enhanced imaging capabilities that could scan entire buildings from the outside or map underground tunnels beneath Earth’s surface.

The examples were included in a recent agency press release announcing a forthcoming proposers day, intended to get officials from academia, government and industry familiar with the Muons for Science and Security effort, called MuS2.

The program aims to develop a new source of muons -- subatomic particles similar to electrons that “can travel easily through dozens to hundreds of meters of water, solid rock, or soil” at high energy, according to DARPA’s release. Officials hope to see between 1 million and 100 million muons created through the undertaking, a notice posted to SAM.gov late last week shows.

“MuS2 will lay the groundwork needed to examine the feasibility of developing compact and transportable muon sources,” Mark Wrobel, MuS2 program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, said in the release.

Only two main avenues for producing or harnessing muons currently exist, according to DARPA, and adding to those options is challenging because of the need for a high-energy, giga-electronvolt (GeV) particle source.

Given those requirements, large physics research facilities are the primary source of terrestrially developed muons, per the release.

“Our goal is to develop a new, terrestrial muon source that doesn’t require large accelerators and allows us to create directional beams of muons at relevant energies, from 10s to 100s of GeVs -- to either image or characterize materials,” Wrobel added.

The proposers day, slated for Aug. 5, would follow the release of an anticipated broad agency announcement, according to the SAM.gov notice. Registration will close July 29 or when all the available slots are filled.

The SAM.gov notice indicated that a BAA could be released as soon as this month. As the four-year program progresses, officials anticipate it’ll be divided into two equal phases: one focused on experimentation, modeling and scaling studies in support of the production of 10 GeV muons; and a second focused on scalable accelerator design generation for at least 100 GeV, the release states.