Magazine article National Defense

Airline Security, Customs Check Points Aided by Advances in X-Ray Technology

Magazine article National Defense

Airline Security, Customs Check Points Aided by Advances in X-Ray Technology

Article excerpt

Inspections of vehicles and cargo have become primary security tools for military and civilian organizations that fear terrorist attacks via explosive devices or seek to intercept contraband.

Law enforcement officials, additionally, are seeking improved technologies for detection of illegal cargo such as weapons and narcotics.

Companies that have developed security products for traditional markets-such as the military or the aviation communitiesare now expanding their equipment lines and launching more technologically advanced systems to meet new demands.

Examples of these technologies include Xray imaging systems and high-resolution screening devices to detect explosives and contraband at airport check points.

A company that has developed an array of security products for military and aerospace applications is now marketing an Xray imaging technology for the detection of drugs, weapons, and other illegal substances hidden in trucks, trailers, sea containers, and palletized cargo. The system provides view of the contents, and it can also see what is concealed inside false walls or hidden compartments.

American Science and Engineering Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts, developed a "conveyorized" unit called PalletSearch, designed to perform non-intrusive inspection of mixed cargo. It can determine what's organic and what's metallic"what's rice and what's cocaine" based on their atomic number, explains Gerald Smith, AS&E's senior scientist, during ADPA/NSIA's Security Technology Symposium in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The typical transmission X-raycurrently used at most airports to inspect luggageprovides a density profile of the object being searched, so it becomes useful in locating dense materials such as metal guns and knives. Low density materials such as drugs, explosives, and plastics, are often difficult to identify using a density profile, particularly if the object is in a "cluttered environment," explains Smith.

To cut through the clutter, AS&E relies on a technology called Z Backscatter to highlight low atomic number materials in a separate image. According to company research, the best method to discriminate between "high and low-Z" materials is to clearly identify the materials using simultaneous images-especially in situations where someone is deliberately attempting to camouflage the low-Z organic materials in a confused background of high-Z materials. …

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