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DHS Funds Cargo-Screening Tech

Feb 16, 20062 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Mass.-based Passport Systems has been awarded another $1.6 million by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for its ongoing development of a scanning technology that could eventually provide improved detection of radiological threats and other potential weapons of mass destruction in cargo containers, Federal Computer Week (FCW) reports.

The technology, called nuclear resonance fluorescence imaging (NRFI), was originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has since been licensed exclusively to Passport Systems, FCW reports.  It employs an energy-packed X-ray beam to stimulate nuclei so that re-emitted photons for every isotope of every element can be examined, according to FCW.  According to Passport Systems’ President and Founder, Robert Ledoux, NRFI can detect every element with the exceptions of hydrogen and helium.

Ledoux says the company has finished feasibility testing of NRFI, and it is working on a prototype design that could be compete within a few months, according to FCW.  If the preliminary design is found to be acceptable, a final design could be built and tested in a real world setting in less than two years.

Today, high-energy X-ray scanners can be employed to examine cargo; however, they can only provide a two-dimensional picture and can’t identify the elements within an object, FCW reports.  NRFI can recognize an object’s nuclear isotopic composition, shape and density.

“We’re the next step,” Ledoux told FCW.  “We’ve been asked to design onto a time scale…consistent to detecting, if needed, every container.  So the design goal is to get a 40-foot container of average density through our scanner on the order of 15 to 20 seconds,” he said.  “That’s fast.”

Ledoux’s company originally received $1.6 million from the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2005 to test the technology’s feasibility, FCW reports.  After the feasibility tests were deemed successful, DHS sent another $1.6 million Ledoux’s way last December, and the company has since invested another $2 million of its own for development.

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Managing Editor

Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.

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