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Unique Detector for Explosives Created
June 4, 2010 17:15

A detector prototype

Russian physicists from the Institute of Physics in cooperation with several other research institutions have built a unique device – a photonuclear detector of hidden explosive substances. The device can detect explosives in luggage of air passengers and various closed containers, as well as serve as a portable detect for demining activities.

When a closed container is exposed to high-energy flow of gamma-radiation, nuclei of nitrogen and carbon atoms, which are components of explosive substances and natural drugs, will become covered with boron and nitrogen isotopes (12B and (12N). These elements have very short lifetimes and can be detected separately from other radionuclides. Signal from such elements allows suspecting presence of explosive substances.

A technique, developed by Russian physicists, can create “portraits” of chemical compounds, exposed to gamma-radiation. Comparing these “portraits” with detector signal, we can distinguish explosives from ordinary safe substances, containing nitrogen and carbon. We even can tell what type of explosive is hidden in a container. Gamma-quanta have enormous penetrating power – this helps detect explosives, covered with metals, water and soil. Making radiation beam narrow allows finding exact location of a bomb and even its shape.



Theory of photonuclear technique for detecting hidden explosive substances appeared in 1985. Russian researchers decided to put theory into practice. Funds for the project came after famous sad date 9/11 from America. Scientists already built a prototype of the detector. All its components, including portable electron accelerator (a split microtron), a secondary radiation detector and a signal processing module are working normally. American colleagues calculated that a single detector would be enough to provide safety for New York’s JFK, which is a very big airport.

The device requires only 2 seconds for checking one item of luggage. Such a small processing time makes the detector an ideal means for providing safety in airports and railway stations. First working device will be built in the United States by the end of the year. The United States, being the major development partner, need all 2030 airports in the country to be equipped with these detectors. Other countries, like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Turkey, have also placed orders for Russian photonuclear detectors of hidden explosive substances.

A photonuclear technique for detecting hidden explosive substances has another useful application – a detector can be incorporated into a robotic mobile complex for demining activities, since unexploded ordnance, left after military campaigns, is a serious problem for more than 60 countries of the world. Russian scientists performed a computer modeling and showed that safety and reliability of their development meets all existing UN standards for unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance. An automatic detector can replace widely used manual demining technology, thus reducing unnecessary risks and making demining much faster.

Source: Institute of Physics

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists     

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