01 October 2002
Imaging systems security sensor making waves
Menlo Park, Calif. - Think about a sensor technology that rapidly identifies hidden weapons, explosives, and other contraband-even plastic, ceramic, and other nonmetallic weapons-through clothing.
The holographic imaging system is distinctly different from current surveillance systems that rely on metal detectors, X-ray imaging, and in some cases strip searches.
Metal detectors cannot screen for plastic or ceramic weapons, plastic explosives, or other nonmetallic contraband, while X-ray imaging subjects people to potentially harmful ionizing radiation.
"We believe that the imaging system has enormous potential for use in screening people at points of entry to mass transit systems, including airports, subways, and trains; border crossings; government installations such as courtrooms, military bases, prisons, embassies, and office buildings; crowded public places such as sports arenas, concert halls, and museums; and commercial buildings," said Mike Lyons, SafeView chairman.
SafeView licensed the technology developed by the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for the Federal Aviation Administration to scan airline passengers as they pass through airport security checkpoints.
PNNL is operated for the DOE by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle, which inked a deal to license the technology to SafeView, based in Menlo Park.
"While the technology was developed to identify dangerous objects or contraband that people might bring into a facility, we believe it also could be used to protect against theft by identifying concealed items that people might try to remove from facilities, ranging from museums to nuclear plants," added Doug McMakin, a PNNL engineer who was a principal developer of the technology.
Looking much like a conventional metal detector, the system projects ultrahigh-frequency, low-powered radio waves onto the front and back of the scanned person. These waves, known as millimeter or centimeter waves because they have wavelengths of about 1 centimeter, penetrate clothing and bounce off the person and any items being carried.
A sensor array captures the reflected waves and sends the information to a high-speed image processing computer. The computer analyzes the information and produces a high-resolution, three-dimensional image from the signals that allows an operator to screen for suspicious materials.
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