Where the bombs are

A Western Australian company is developing an advanced explosives detection system for airport baggage screeners.

A Western Australian company developing an advanced explosives detection system for airport baggage screeners has been awarded $2.8 million under the Australian Government’s R&D Start program.

The company, QR Sciences, developed its first prototype detector capable of detecting three of the most powerful explosives used in letter/parcel bombs back in September 1999. Using the knowledge and experience gained from the scanner, it then began the development of a conveyorised system capable of screening larger items that was suitable for use at airports.

The conveyorised scanner itself made use of Quadrupole Resonance (QR) – a radio-frequency (RF) spectroscopy closely related to Magnetic Resonance Imaging. When employed in a scanner, it is capable of unambiguously identifying a wide range of chemical compounds including specific materials such as explosives and narcotics.

A development trial of the prototype was conducted at Perth airport during July and August 2000. Making use of the results of this trial and further research a more advanced prototype was developed.

The advanced prototype was successfully trialled at Manchester airport in the UK during November and December 2000 and tested by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 2002.

With the help of the Australian R&D Start grant, QR Sciences will build on their existing QR knowledge to develop a new system that detects explosives which are difficult to uncover using conventional systems.