Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New X-Ray Technology has Potential to Improve Freight Screening and Security

Ramifications for Cargo Examination from Medical Advances
Shipping News Feature
UK – WORLDWIDE – A new X-ray imaging technology has been successfully developed to the point where it is now ready for translation into all kinds of beneficial applications, including potentially life-saving uses in security and healthcare. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a major five-year project led by University College London (UCL) has achieved this breakthrough. The work also involved dozens of industrial, academic and research partners in the UK and worldwide.

The technique at the heart of the advance is called phase-contrast X-ray imaging. Instead of measuring the extent to which tissue or materials absorb radiation, as with conventional X-ray imaging, it measures the physical effect that passing through different types of tissue or material has on the speed of the X-ray itself.

Compared with conventional X-rays, the technology can detect different shapes and materials, a capability that conventional X-rays can only match by using prohibitively high doses of radiation. This will make it considerably more accurate in identifying suspect materials amongst loads. It also has the advantage of being able to identify tumours in living tissue earlier and spot smaller cracks and defects in materials.

Nikon Metrology UK has incorporated the technology into a prototype security scanner which is currently being tested and further developed to provide enhanced threat detection against weapons and explosives concealed in freight shipments and baggage. Professor Alessandro Olivo, who led the project team, explained:

“The technique has been around for decades but it’s been limited to large-scale synchrotron facilities such as Oxfordshire’s Diamond Light Source. We’ve now advanced this embryonic technology to make it viable for day-to-day use in medicine, security applications, industrial production lines, materials science, non-destructive testing, the archaeology and heritage sector, and a whole range of other fields.

“This has the potential to be incredibly versatile, game-changing technology. We’re currently negotiating with a number of companies to explore how it could be put to practical use. There’s really no limit to the benefits this technique could deliver.”