Problems and Solutions of Landmine and Improvised Explosive Devices

February 25, 2007

E-Separation Solutions

As most of us traveled by air to Chicago this weekend, we all passed through airport security and the various drills like taking off our shoes, removing metal objects and taking the all-important laptop out of its case.

As most of us traveled by air to Chicago this weekend, we all passed through airport security and the various drills like taking off our shoes, removing metal objects and taking the all-important laptop out of its case.

But, how safe and exhaustive are those checks, really? On Sunday afternoon in the first day of Pittcon technical sessions, Dr. Fredy Ornath of Traceguard Technologies, Inc., broke down how they can be more thorough to keep us all safer in the air.

In the session entitled “Problems and Solutions of Landmine and Improvised Explosive Devices,” Ornath gave a presentation on “Automated Trace Explosive Extraction System for Airport Luggage.” The session was arranged by Shubhen Kapila and Virgil Flanigan, both from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Dr. Ornath explained that the X-ray and metal detectors we see at airports are not designed to test for explosives and that the majority of the equipment pre-dates the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Just doing an X-ray is not good enough to find explosives,” Ornath said.

A system has been designed which is based on an adaptive flexible glove-like membrane that forms a smaller volume and hermetic enclosure around the inspected item (checked or carry-on luggage), with minimal stray air around it. Traces of explosives can be left behind as residue on a surface or in the air of the luggage, laptop, etc., and Ornath believes that this can be effectively tested.

The key to this system, according to Ornath, is sampling.

“Sampling is the key – detection technology is useless otherwise,” he said.

Detection time is below 30 seconds/per baggage. The system allows for remote standoff operation, decreasing the risk of blast to personnel, whilst the false positive alarm rate is not more than the false alarm rate of the sensor system. This is based on testing conducted at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, where over 1000 pieces of hand luggage were tested using a Smith's Detection Ionscan 400 ETD.

The three step process includes: 1) extraction; 2) transport; and 3) collection. The collector can detect under 0.5 nanogram of material.

Some other topics covered in the afternoon session included landmine detection, detection of explosives in liquids, and effects of moisture on the detection of TNT.