Prof. Mücher’s research is focused on understanding the properties of atomic nuclei with a large excess of neutrons. These nuclei have a strong impact on stellar nucleosynthesis in the so-called r-process. Nuclei with a “magic” number of protons or neutrons (i.e. nuclei with a closed shell configuration) have a strong impact on the r-process flow. However, it is difficult to predict the evolution of shell structure far from stability, and experimental data are needed to guide our theoretical understanding. Mücher is also interested in exploring applications of physics in medicine. Key research themes include:
Understanding the underlying nature of nuclear shell evolution and nuclear collectivity through gamma-ray spectroscopy. Mücher’s research group conducts experiments at the Isotope Mass Separator On-Line facility (ISOLDE) at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). The research team detects gamma arrays and charged particles with state-of-the-art Germanium and silicon detectors. This allows them to probe nuclei at or near the r-process, in detail.
Measuring fission barriers and fission fragment distributions of neutron-rich nuclei to better predict the r-process termination and its re-cycling. The first measurement of nuclear fission barriers in neutron-rich nuclei at the RIKEN Nishina Center in Japan. Such data have a direct impact on the termination of the r-process and its re-cycling. Mücher and his team are currently testing their newly developed silicon tracker array, which will allow them to perform these challenging measurements in the future.
Developing experimental techniques to explore shell evolution in heavier nuclei on the r-process path at TRIUMF. Mücher and his research group are working on the development of a new type of particle tracking detector, utilizing ultra-thin silicon wavers and ASIC chips.
Applications for improved dose and range verification in hadron therapy. Despite the steady increase of proton treatment facilities worldwide for radiation treatment of cancer, it remains a challenge to accurately verify dose administered to a tumor during treatment. Proton therapy is particularly sensitive to uncertainties in range due to the protons depositing most of their energy at the end of their track. Mücher is exploring opportunities for range verification in proton cancer radiation therapy using a Hadron Tumour Marker (HTM).