Airport security to improve with hyperspectral X-ray camera

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Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a 3D colour X-ray camera that could radically improve security screening at airports or diagnose medical conditions more accurately.

The camera can take powerful three dimensional colour X-ray images, in near real-time, without the need for a synchrotron X-ray source.

The X-Ray system developed by Professor Robert Cernik and colleagues from The School of Materials can identify chemicals and compounds such as cocaine, semtex, precious metals or radioactive materials even when they’re contained inside a relatively large object like a suitcase.

The method could also be extended to detect strain in fabricated components, for example in aircraft wings, and it can be used to image corrosion processes and chemical changes.

In healthcare, the system can be used to detect abnormal tissue types from biopsy samples. In geophysical exploration it could be used to analyse the content of core samples taken from bore holes.

The camera sensor, made from cadmium zinc telluride, has an 80 x 80 pixel resolution that supports real-time hyperspectral X-ray imaging up to very high energies. The information from the camera can be used to fingerprint the material present at each point in a 3D image.

The camera takes several minutes to scan an object, which is quicker than building up lots of separate images (mapping). This has implications for using the X-ray system for medical purposes. Professor Cernik commented: ‘The fact the image can be taken at the same time as using more conventional methods and on the same timescale means more information can be gathered from biopsy samples. This will more accurately differentiate between normal and abnormal tissue types reducing mis-diagnosis.’