Muons, Inc.

“Innovation in Research”
552 N. Batavia Avenue, Batavia, IL 60510
(757) 870-6943, inquiries@muonsinc.com

Our Primary R&D Areas

  • Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor (ADSR) technology, a nuclear-energy technology that is fuel agnosticThe use of an accelerator permits diverse nuclear fuels to be used, including excess weapons-grade Plutonium, spent nuclear fuel from other reactors, natural Uranium, and natural Thorium. No re-processing or fuel enrichment is needed.
    , and can address society's energy needs in an intrinsically safeBecause the reactor is sub-critical, it requires an operating accelerator to generate significant power output; the accelerator can be turned off to stop the reactor in a few seconds. Most failure modes of ordinary nuclear reactors simply cannot occur due to intrinsic design features.
    manner. The waste stream from an ADSR is much smaller and vastly easier to manage than that from a conventional reactor.
  • Enabling technologies for a muon colliderMuons are elementary particles similar to electrons. They have numerous advantages compared to electron or proton colliders, and also additional challenges.
    , potentially the next atom-smasher to follow CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
  • Accelerator technology and related systems, used in research as well as commercial applications.

Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor (ADSR) Technology

We believe an excellent approach for generating safe, clean, carbon-free power is the use of subcriticalA conventional nuclear reactor operates within a few parts per million of criticality, where the number of neutrons created exactly equals the number used; below criticality the reactor turns off, and above criticality it explodes. A nuclear weapon operates well above criticality.
nuclear reactors, made possible by powerful new proton accelerators. ADSRs will be intrinsically safe because of their sub-criticality, the use of molten salt fuel, and other design features. There will be many of them, because:
  • The sun does not always shine,
  • The wind does not always blow, and
  • The nuclear fuel is almost inexhaustible
    • In the US there is enough Uranium for 1,000 years of electrical power via ADSR already out of the ground.
    • The earth's crust contains considerably more Thorium than Uranium.
Muons Inc. is a leader in the study of the "beam switching and control" concept behind a novel type of accelerator driven nuclear power reactor. Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor (ADSR) technology is fundamentally different from traditional nuclear power generation. By using an accelerator to generate neutrons, the reactor itself can be designed to be subcriticalA conventional nuclear reactor operates within a few parts per million of criticality, where the number of neutrons created exactly equals the number used; below criticality the reactor turns off, and above criticality it explodes. A nuclear weapon operates well above criticality.
, which inherently avoids many of the potential failure modes. The molten salt fuel we advocate makes it possible to avoid most other failure modes. Should an external event require shutdown, turning off the accelerator turns the reactor off within a few seconds because it is subcritical.

With an accelerator and a subcritical design for intrinsic safety, an ADSR is liberated from the stringent limitations on conventional reactor fuels, and can be fuel agnostic: it can use excess weapons-grade Plutonium, spent nuclear fuel from other reactors, natural Uranium, and natural Thorium. No re-processing or fuel enrichment is needed. This greatly reduces the complexity of fuel processing and handling. Without Uranium enrichment, the need for centrifuges is eliminated, as is the enrichment path that can lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

With the accelerator as source of copious neutrons independent of the nuclear reactions themselves, an ADSR can burn a considerably higher fraction of its fuel (conventional reactors burn only a few percent). That is why an ADSR can use spent nuclear fuel from other reactors. But the primary advantage is that the waste stream is greatly reduced; in addition to a much lower volume of high-level radioactive waste, the effective half-life of the waste is a thousand times shorter than that from a conventional reactor, making safe long-term storage both possible and plausible.

The research by Muons, Inc and our partner ADNA (Accelerator Driven Neutron Applications, Inc.) clearly displays the potential of ADSR becoming the new model for nuclear energy production. Our research indicates that innovative new accelerator and reactor designs will likely lead to much higher energy output-per-dollar from a next generation of reactors. Imagine, Clean, Safe Nuclear Energy that costs much less to produce and protect, and is sustainable for hundreds to thousands of years, without the concerns over nuclear waste that plague the present industry. We see this as the future, and therefore of strategic value to the U.S. and global economies.

Muon Collider Technology

For well over a decade the High Energy Physics (HEP) community has been in a quandary: after the LHC, what is the next facility we should develop? Until recently, the only options being seriously discussed were the ILC(external link) (the International Linear Collider), and possibly a larger proton machine. Muons, Inc. was founded in 2002 because we felt that a muon collider could be a viable alternative, but was not being given due consideration; we provided several innovations that have sparked renewed interest. In the past few years there has been a sea change: presentations by lab directors and funding agencies have begun mentioning a muon collider as a potential new facility, and the Muon Accelerator Program(external link) (MAP) has been instituted by Fermilab and funded by the DoE to perform R&D and a feasibility study for a muon collider.

The Large Hadron Collider, now in operation at CERN, permits the study of hadron-hadron collisions and will be a center for high energy physics research for decades to come. At the same time, physicists need to carry out the complementary detailed studies of lepton-lepton collisions. We are striving to advance the science and technology of muon colliders, as an alternative or follow-on to the ILC, because muons have a significant advantage over electrons - muons are 200 times heavier, so muon beams are much less subject to energy loss from synchrotron radiation in magnetic fields. That is, very high energy muon beams (unlike similar electron beams) can be bent in beam lines and can be recirculated in an accelerator, thus reusing the infrastructure and reducing its cost compared to single-pass linear configurations for electron machines. Therefore, muon recirculating colliders can reach very high energies at a relatively low cost, and much smaller physical size, when compared with electron linear colliders. The two challenges of using muons are (1) that muon beams originate from the decay of pion beams and are very diffuse (have large emittances), and (2) that muons are unstable particles with a lifetime of 2.2 microseconds. To achieve reasonable event rates a muon collider requires the head-on collisions of high-brightness muon beams (ones with high intensity and very small emittances), so the central design challenge of a muon collider is the reduction of the muon beam size in a very short time, before the muons decay away (see Ionization Cooling).

Muons, Inc. has introduced a number of innovations related to the performance of a muon collider and similar facilities:
  • Pressurized RF cavities that can reach significantly higher accelerating gradients than normal (vacuum) cavities, because the pressurized gas suppresses breakdown (Paschen effect). These are only useful for muons (electrons would shower in the gas, while hadrons would interact in it). As an elegant dual use, the gas also serves as the absorber needed for Ionization Cooling.
  • The Helical Cooling Channel (HCC) — a compact and efficient channel using Ionization Cooling to reduce the emittance of the beam in all six dimensions (ionization cooling is inherently transverse, 4-D).
  • Parametric Resonance Ionization Cooling (PIC) — which has the potential to reach significantly smaller emittances in the final stages of the cooling channel, using only modes magnetic fields.
  • Reverse Emittance Exchange (REMEX) — a technique to exchange transverse emittance for longitudinal emittance. As the Luminosity of colliding beams depends directly on their transverse emittances, this can significantly increase the luminosity of a muon collider.
  • The Helical Solenoid — an implementation of the magnets required for an HCC that significantly reduces their complexity and cost.
  • Pulsed Recirculating Linacs — recirculating linacs that increase their focusing strengths while the beams traverse them. This permits more passes through the linac, reducing cost and complexity.
  • Epicyclic PIC — an improved version of PIC that avoids lumped elements and the aberrations they induce.
  • The G4beamline program — it has become a mainstay in the design and simulation of muon facilities in general, and a muon collider cooling channel in particular. It is open source and freely available at G4beamlineOld.

Muons, Inc. offers consulting services on all aspects of accelerator design, construction, and operation, including simulations and computational analyses.

We have a few specific projects that are moving toward becoming products:
  • Magnetrons, as a less expensive and more efficient power source for accelerators.
  • Vacuum loads, to absorb the waste RF power in an accelerator.

We also have a program, G4beamlineOld, which has become a mainstay for simulating muon facilities around the world. At present there are over 200 users, who apply it to a large array of diverse problems and facilities.

Muons, Inc. has formed partnerships with national labs including ANL, BNL, Fermilab, JLab, LANL, LBNL, ORNL, PNNL, and SLAC and many universities including U of Chicago, Cornell, FSU, IIT, NCSU, NIU, and ODU. We have used these relationships to invent new accelerator concepts and to develop the relevant technology for their realization.

The scientific and technological expertise of our staff and our research partners includes:
  • Numerical Simulations of Matter-Dominated Beam Lines, Accelerators, and Experiments
  • Pressurized RF Cavities and Linacs for Muon Cooling and Acceleration
  • RF Breakdown Phenomena and Mitigation
  • Design of Innovative Muon Cooling Channels
  • Helical Cooling Channels
  • MANX, a six-dimensional Muon Cooling Demonstration Experiment
  • High-Temperature Superconductor for use in High-Field Applications
  • Superconducting Magnet Technology
  • Superconducting RF Technology
  • Normal-conducting RF technology
  • Magnetrons
  • RF vacuum loads
  • Dielectric-loaded RF cavities, and other specialized RF components
  • Muon Collider Design
  • Neutrino Factory Design
  • Stopping Muon Beam Design