Explosive detector

A new means to detect hidden liquid explosives through plastic containers has been demonstrated by scientists from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.


A new means to detect hidden liquid explosives through common plastic containers and glass bottles has been demonstrated by scientists from STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), in Oxfordshire.


The technique, which employs Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS), was originally developed for medical and pharmaceutical applications, but has now been demonstrated to work in security applications.


According to the researchers, a spectroscopic system based on the technology can be implemented using a hand-held ‘probe’ to produce chemical information on liquids contained in transparent and diffuse plastic containers, including those made from coloured materials.


That’s because SORS is less sensitive to surface layers than conventional Raman spectroscopy, a technique used in condensed matter physics and chemistry to study vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system.


Applications of the new technology are not only limited to security; the detection of adulterated food products and beverages as well as use in quality control in the food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries are also being tested.


‘ We are now planning to develop the technology commercially through a new spin-out company ‘LiteThru’, which will address areas such as pharmaceutical manufacture, anti-counterfeiting and medical diagnosis,’ said Dr Pavel Matousek, the project team leader at RAL.


The work was supported financially from the Proof-of-Concept Fund by CLIK Knowledge Transfer (STFC’s technology transfer arm), STFC, NESTA, the Rainbow Seed Fund and the EPSRC.