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Project Brief

Open Competition 3 - Electronics and Photonics

Novel X-ray Security Systems: Fast, Accurate And Affordable

Develop large-area digital X-ray inspection systems with heretofore-unavailable accuracy for near error-free screening of cargo and sealed container freight at airports, seaports, and other points of entry.

Sponsor: Varian Medical Systems

2599 Garcia Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
  • Project Performance Period: 10/1/2003 - 3/31/2008
  • Total project (est.): $11,759,104.00
  • Requested ATP funds: $5,873,013.00

Faster, cheaper, and more accurate inspections of luggage, air and ship cargo containers, and other large items are the major benefits anticipated from this joint venture project to develop a large-area, digital X-ray system for security applications. Varian Medical Systems and the Palo Alto Research Center have joined to achieve the advances in detector materials, devices, and arrays necessary to build the flat panel imaging technology that the partners envision. Central to the team's technical approach is the development of very large sensor arrays - about 1 meter wide and several meters high - for computerized tomography (CT). For inspection of cargo containers, the collaborators will test a prototype of a very-large-diameter cone-beam CT scanner. System components will include an X-ray tube and detector array mounted on a rotating gantry, which will generate images of a slice through any portion of a container warranting scrutiny on the basis of an earlier rapid X-ray scan. If successful, the system will thoroughly inspect a closed cargo container in six minutes. For inspection of luggage, an X-ray generator will project a sheet of X-rays through baggage moving on a conveyor belt. Detectors sensitive enough to detect a single X-ray photon will be placed below the belt to capture diffracted X-rays. Recognition software will analyze diffraction patterns and alert operators to those associated with explosives or other contraband. Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc., will be subcontracted to work on photoconductor device and film growth technology. Among the several significant challenges ahead is the difficult task of developing cost-effective methods for making flat-panel sensor arrays that are many times larger than those used for medical imaging, where the high cost of arrays is an issue. Success in overcoming this obstacle and others requires a diverse collection of scientific and manufacturing expertise, as enabled by ATP funding. Without this four-year project, work to develop the novel X-ray security system would be slowed by at least two years. Such technology would be a significant addition to homeland security protections. Nearly 20,000 standard cargo containers enter U.S. seaports each day, but fewer than 2 percent can be inspected. In addition to security, the anticipated X-ray imaging technology can aid manifest matching, significantly reducing the loss of import duties on incorrectly labeled imported goods.

For project information:
Spencer Sias, (650) 424-5782

Active Project Participants
  • Palo Alto Research Center (Palo Alto, CA)
    [Original, Active Member]

ATP Project Manager
Gerald Castellucci, (301) 975-2435

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