Muons are very sensitive probes of magnetic systems, often detecting effects that are too weak to be seen by other methods. They also have a wide variety of other applications – for example, in studies of superconductors, molecular systems and chemical reactions, novel battery materials and a variety of organic systems. In some studies, the positive muon can be thought of as being like a light proton (muons have a mass of one ninth of the proton mass). Implanted muons will sometimes pick up an electron to form a light isotope of hydrogen called muonium (Mu). By following muon behaviour inside a material we can learn about proton and hydrogen behaviour. This is important in semiconducting materials, proton conductors and hydrogen storage materials.
From clean energy to preserving ancient artefacts, tackling Alzheimer’s disease to shrinking electronics, muon spectroscopy provides unique information that is helping to tackle some of the greatest global challenges of our time.