Civilian soft targets such as transportation systems are being targeted by terrorists using IEDs and suicide bombers. Having the capability to remotely detect explosives, precursors and other chemicals would enable these assets to be protected with minimal interruption of the flow of commerce. Mid-IR laser technology offers the potential to detect explosives and other chemicals in real-time and from a safe standoff distance. While many of these agents possess "fingerprint" signatures in the mid-IR (i.e. in the 3-20 micron regime), their effective interrogation by a practical, field-deployable system has been limited by size, complexity, reliability and cost constraints of the base laser technology. Daylight Solutions has addressed these shortcomings by developing compact, portable, broadly tunable mid-IR laser sources based upon external-cavity quantum cascade technology. This technology is now being applied by Daylight in system level architectures for standoff and remote detection of explosives, precursors and chemical agents. Several of these architectures and predicted levels of performance will be presented.
Terrorists both with IEDs and suicide bombers are targeting civilian infrastructures such as transportation systems.
Although explosive detection technologies exist and are used effectively in aviation, these technologies do not lend
themselves well to protecting open architecture soft targets, as they are focused on a checkpoint form factor that limits
throughput. However, remote detection of explosives and other chemicals would enable these kinds of targets to be
protected without interrupting the flow of commerce.
Tunable mid-IR laser technology offers the opportunity to detect explosives and other chemicals remotely and quickly.
Most chemical compounds, including explosives, have their fundamental vibrational modes in the mid-infrared region
(3 to 15μm). There are a variety of techniques that focus on examining interactions that have proven effective in the
laboratory but could never work in the field due to complexity, size, reliability and cost. Daylight Solutions has solved
these problems by integrating quantum cascade gain media into external tunable cavities. This has resulted in
miniaturized, broadly tunable mid-IR laser sources. The laser sources have a capability to tune to +/- 5% of their center
wavelength, which means they can sweep through an entire absorption spectrum to ensure very good detection and false
alarm performance compared with fixed wavelength devices. These devices are also highly portable, operate at room
temperature, and generate 10's to 100's of mW in optical power, in pulsed and continuous wave configurations.
Daylight Solutions is in the process of developing a variety of standoff explosive and chemical weapon detection
systems using this technology.
An increasingly important need today is to guard against terrorist attacks at key locations such as airports and public buildings. Liquid explosives can avoid detection at security checkpoints by being concealed as beverages or other benign liquids. Magnetic resonance (MR) offers a safe, non-invasive technology for probing and classifying the liquid contents inside sealed non-metallic containers or packages. Quantum Magnetics has developed a Liquid Explosives Screening System or `Bottle Scanner' to screen for liquid explosives and flammables, described at an earlier SPIE conference in 1996. Since then, the Bottle Scanner's performance has been significantly improved by the incorporation of neural network-based liquid classification. Recently we have shown that the incorporation of additional discrimination parameters can further enhance liquid classification. In addition to screening for explosives and flammables, the Bottle Scanner can be effective against chemical agents, many of which contain fluorine or phosphorous, both of which have MR signatures. Finally, we have evidence that the Bottle Scanner may also be able to detect narcotics dissolved in beverages, one of the methods used to smuggle narcotics across international borders. The development of the Bottle Scanner has been funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Quantum Magnetics, Inc. are exploring novel landmine detection technologies. Technologies considered here include bioreporter bacteria, swept acoustic resonance, nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR), and semiotic data fusion. Bioreporter bacteria look promising for third-world humanitarian applications; they are inexpensive, and deployment does not require high-tech methods. Swept acoustic resonance may be a useful adjunct to magnetometers in humanitarian demining. For military demining, NQR is a promising method for detecting explosive substances; of 50,000 substances that have been tested, one has an NQR signature that can be mistaken for RDX or TNT. For both military and commercial demining, sensor fusion entails two daunting tasks, identifying fusible features in both present-day and emerging technologies, and devising a fusion algorithm that runs in real-time on cheap hardware. Preliminary research in these areas is encouraging. A bioreporter bacterium for TNT detection is under development. Investigation has just started in swept acoustic resonance as an approach to a cheap mine detector for humanitarian use. Real-time wavelet processing appears to be a key to extending NQR bomb detection into mine detection, including TNT-based mines. Recent discoveries in semiotics may be the breakthrough that will lead to a robust fused detection scheme.
Bulk narcotic detection systems based upon Quadrupole Resonance Analysis (QRA) technology have a major advantage over imaging technologies, in that QRA is chemical-specific and consequently has a lower rate of false alarms. QRA is a magnetic resonance technology which occurs as a result of the inherent molecular properties of the atomic nuclei in crystalline and amorphous solids. The QRA response is characterized by 1) the precessional frequency of the nucleus, and 2) the nature of the electric field gradient experienced by the nucleus,due to its molecular environment. Another important detection parameter is linewidth, resonant quality. All of these parameters depend on sample purity and manufacturing process. Quantum Magnetics recently carried out a study on the QRA signatures of various narcotic materials with the support of the US Army, US Customs, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The aim of the study was to fully characterize the variation in QRA spectroscopic parameters of different samples of cocaine base and cocaine hydrochloride. The results from this study ar discussed here.
The increase in international terrorist activity over the past decade has necessitated the exploration of new technologies for the detection of plastic explosives. Quadrupole resonance analysis (QRA) has proven effective as a technique for detecting the presence of plastic, sheet, and military explosive compounds in small quantities, and can also be used to identify narcotics such as heroin and cocaine base. QRA is similar to the widely used magnetic resonance (MR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, but has the considerable advantage that the item being inspected does not need to be immersed in a steady, homogeneous magnetic field. The target compounds are conclusively identified by their unique quadrupole resonance frequencies. Quantum magnetics has develop and introduced a product line of explosives and narcotics detection devices based upon QRA technology. The work presented here concerns a multi-compound QRA detection system designed to screen checked baggage, cargo, and sacks of mail at airports and other high-security facilities. The design philosophy and performance are discussed and supported by test results from field trials conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom. This detection system represents the current state of QRA technology for field use in both commercial and government sectors.
Piezo-electric ringing (PER) has been demonstrated to be an effective means of scanning cargo for the presence of hidden narcotics. The PER signal is characteristic of certain types of crystallized material, such as cocaine hydrochloride. However, the PER signal cannot be used to conclusively identify all types of narcotic material, as the signal is not unique. For the purposes of cargo scanning, the PER technique is therefore most effective when used in combination with quadrupole resonance analysis (QRA). PER shares the same methodology as QRA technology, and can therefore be very easily and inexpensively integrated into existing QRA detectors. PER can be used as a pre-scanning technique before the QRA scan is applied and, because the PER scan is of a very short duration, can effectively offset some of the throughput limitations of standard QRA narcotics detectors. Following is a discussion of a PER detector developed by Quantum Manetics under contract to United States Customs. Design philosophy and performance are discussed, supported by results from recent tests conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Customs.