A £2.1 million investment in muon spectroscopy at ISIS promises to open up new areas of research in soft matter and bioscience. Muon spectroscopy monitors the decay of muons when implanted into samples. The technique is a sensitive measure of weak magnetism and also finds use mimicking the diffusion of hydrogen in semiconductors.

The new instrument, Hifi, has been built to provide some of the highest magnetic fields available for research with muons with longitudinal magnetic fields up to 5 Tesla [Salman et al., Physica B (2009) 404, 978]. A common application of the new instrument will be avoided level crossing resonance (ALCR) for the study of molecular dynamics and the study of free radicals in chemical reactions, many of which are difficult or impossible to detect by other means.

For molecules with unsaturated bonds, implanted muons can attach to forming the light hydrogen isotope muonium. The “muonated” molecule makes it possible to monitor subtle changes to the molecular structure, dynamics and environment.

Recent studies of low-concentrations of co-surfactants, added to soaps and other systems, have been able to monitor their partitioning in the surfactant's lamellar structure. Experiments with the Hifi instrument at ISIS will apply the ALCR technique to a wide range of new applications including monitoring drug delivery in the environment of cell membranes.