There is no single solution to counter the wide range and continual evolution of explosive threats to our society. However, our scientists and engineers are developing methods to enable interdiction of these threats across a variety of deployment scenarios.
Our fundamental and applied research and development for the detection of explosive materials and devices spans solutions including millimeter wave and radar-based imaging; novel materials for collection; vapor detection; stand-off infrared imaging; and x-ray interrogation methods.
The most prominent example of this work includes the millimeter wave holographic body-scanning system developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and transferred to private industry through laboratory commercialization efforts. These systems are deployed at more than 2,300 locations, including airports, and have scanned over 100 million individuals to date. We also developed an ultra-sensitive vapor detection technology that can quickly and accurately identify explosives, deadly chemicals, and illicit drugs. This technology was named 2020 Innovation of the Year by GeekWire.
Using advanced electro-optic methods, we work to increase standoff detection capabilities. These improvements make it possible to detect explosive chemicals and material anomalies from a distance, thereby enabling an earlier warning as threats approach a checkpoint or critical infrastructure.
We continue to expand direct, real-time explosive vapor detection capabilities by manipulating the ionization chemistry and enhancing detection limits and selectivity, resulting in lower false alarm rates while detecting vanishingly small traces of explosive material. Our vapor detection capabilities are being developed as a cornerstone technology to aviation security with a canine-like ability to sniff out explosives from the vapor plume. This same capability is also being adapted and applied to the detection of narcotics.
Contact collection of trace residues from surfaces is a proven and widely used method for detecting explosives. Our team is developing rationally designed sampling materials for enhanced vapor and particle collection. These patented sampling materials are compatible and complementary with existing deployed detection systems and augment detection and reduce false alarms.
By developing and applying novel x-ray imaging techniques to material discrimination, PNNL is creating tools to better distinguish between explosives and benign materials. This advanced imaging capability has the potential to be applied to mail and luggage scanning, detection of contraband, inspection of small parts, and materials characterization.
PNNL is advancing technology for the detection and identification of explosives and explosive devices—improving our ability to counter their use and mitigate resulting impacts. Our science-based solutions are deployed and used in a variety of real-world settings.