Three-dimensional muon imaging of cavities inside the Temperino mine (Italy)

Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 25;12(1):22329. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26393-7.


Muon radiography (muography) is an imaging technique based on atmospheric muon absorption in matter that allows to obtain two and three-dimensional images of internal details of hidden objects or structures. The technique relies on atmospheric muon flux measurements performed around and underneath the object under examination. It is a non-invasive and passive technique and thus can be thought of as a valid alternative to common prospecting techniques used in archaeological, geological and civil security fields. This paper describes muon radiography measurements, in the context of archaeological and geological studies carried out at the Temperino mine (LI, Tuscany, Italy), for the search and three-dimensional visualisation of cavities. This mine has been exploited since Etruscan times until recently (1973), and is now an active tourist attraction with public access to the tunnels. Apart from the archaeological interest, the importance of mapping the cavities within this mine lies in identifying the areas where the extraction ores were found and also in the safety issues arising from the tourist presence inside the mine. The three-dimensional imaging is achieved with two different algorithms: one involving a triangulation of two or more measurements at different locations; the other, an innovative technique used here for the first time, is based on the back-projections of reconstructed muon tracks. The latter requires only a single muographic data tacking and is to be preferred in applications where more than one site location can be difficult to access. Finally the quality of the three-dimensional muographic imaging was evaluated by comparing the results with the laser scan profiles obtained for some known cavities within the Temperino mine.