A University of Glasgow nuclear physicist has been presented with a prestigious award and medal in recognition of his pioneering research in the field of muography.

Dr David Mahon, of the School of Physics & Astronomy, officially received the National Nuclear Laboratory’s Chief Scientist’s Award & Medal at an event at the University’s Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre on Thursday 17 November. 

The award and medal are presented each year to the best peer-reviewed paper written by an academic in collaboration with a scientist from the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL).

Dr Mahon received the award in recognition of a paper he co-authored with NNL’s Craig Shearer, which was published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A in 2019.

The paper, titled ‘First-of-a-kind muography for nuclear waste characterization’, outlines how Dr Mahon and colleagues at NNL developed a system capable of using cosmic rays to create non-invasive images of the interiors of structures.

When the rays collide with the nuclei of the gases found in the planet’s atmosphere, the impact releases particles known as muons.

When muons strike objects on earth, they are deflected very slightly from their course. The amount of deflection depends on the chemical composition of the object they hit, with heavier elements causing greater deflection.

The paper outlines how the researchers used a system capable of measuring the deflection of muons to build sophisticated 3D images of identification of small fragments of uranium within a surrogate 500-litre intermediate level waste container and metal inclusions in a material known as GeoMelt.

The Lynkeos team is the first in the UK to develop sensitive muon detectors which can measure the deflection of incoming muons as they travel through objects.

Dr Mahon’s muography research has been spun out into a company called Lynkeos Technology Ltd, founded in 2016, which is working to develop muon imaging products for commercial use.

Lynkeos recently received a share of £700,000 in new investment in nuclear monitoring technology from the Defence and Security Accelerator and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to develop a battery-powered, portable muon imager.

Dr David Mahon receives the National Nuclear Laboratory’s Chief Scientist’s Award & Medal from NNL's University Lead Nick Smith.

Dr Mahon said: “I’m pleased and proud to have received the Chief Scientist’s Award & Medal for the work I have been doing with Craig Shearer and others at the National Nuclear Laboratory.

“It’s a real honour for me and Lynkeos to be recognised in this way, and I’m looking forward to continuing to contuining my work with my collaborators at NNL to advance the field of muon imaging.”