Tweaking chips to locate concealed explosives

September 13th, 2012 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv, Sep 13 (IANS) Israeli engineers have developed small affordable chips that will be able to see through packages and clothing to image whether they are carrying contraband and concealed explosives and take the fight against terrorism to a higher level, a report says.

For instance, Eran Socher of Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Faculty of Engineering is reconfiguring existing complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) chips designed for computers and turning them into high frequency circuits that can carry out these functions.

Currently, advanced security technology is massive in size and comes with a huge price tag. Such scanning systems are often developed for selected airports or used by NASA for space exploration, says Socher.

“Our concept is different. For everyday use, security technology needs to be both small and cheap,” he explains, the journal Microwave and Wireless Components Letters reports.

The project, being undertaken jointly by TAU and Frankfurt University, could help the chip become the basis of sophisticated but affordable and portable detection technology able to meet everyday security needs, according to a TAU statement.

By adding new capabilities to existing CMOS technology, already mass-produced for computers and other mobile devices, the researchers are producing new integrated circuits at an affordable price.

The chip, which measures a miniature 0.5 mm by 0.5 mm, newly integrates antennae, giving it the ability to receive and transmit millimetre wave or terahertz radiation.

Unlike X-ray technology which penetrates the body, the chip is designed to see only through materials such as envelopes, clothing, or luggage, stopping at the human skin.

Because the chip works with radiation levels that are lower than those of a cell phone, it circumvents health concerns. And the chip can also produce a more accurate depiction of concealed objects, an advantage over common metal detectors which aren’t very specific or sensitive, says Socher.

The research was presented at the International Conference on Infrared, Millimetre and Terahertz Waves in Australia.

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