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Impact

Threat detection at US ports

Technology used to track subatomic particles is at the heart of a rapid scanning system that identifies illegal or dangerous goods at U.S. ports and borders.

Particle physics research helped create a rapid, radiation-free cargo scanning system.


Particle physics research helped create a rapid, radiation-free cargo scanning system.
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June 1, 2018

After the attack on New York's Twin Towers, the 9/11 Commission recommended screening all cargo containers entering the U.S. But, inspecting 12 million cargo containers annually presents a challenge. Existing X-ray technology is expensive, produces ionizing radiation and requires trained operators to review each scan.

However, a new approach called the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System (MMPDS) provides rapid, in-line scanning of cargo for both security threats and illegal shipments. The system is completely automated and produces no radiation. The MMPDS detector technology is based in part on NSF-funded particle physics research that was originally developed to find and track subatomic particles for nuclear and high-energy physics experiments. The technology, used in Freeport, Bahamas, will soon be deployed in Singapore and the U.S.

NSF Directorate(s):
Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences

Locations
Illinois

Related Awards
#0244889 A Program of Medium Energy Nuclear Physics
#0601067 A Program of Medium Energy Nuclear Physics

This NSF Impact is one of thousands of research outcomes made possible by NSF that help fuel the U.S. economy, enhance national security and sustain U.S. global leadership by advancing knowledge. You can search for more NSF Impacts at https://www.nsf.gov/impacts.

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