Security Technology

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Security Sensors CS 1

Radioactivity, drugs and explosives

Professor Robert Speller (Medical Physics & Bioengineering) and his team are working with St Bart’s Hospital to develop a system capable of effective remote sensing of radioactivity. This will enable the emergency services to take action more effectively in the case of a ‘dirty bomb’ attack on the city. The system will utilise a compact Compton camera (a device used to measure the distribution of gamma rays) to identity the source of the radioactivity, the radioactive isotope used in the bomb, and the level of radioactivity present.

Professor Speller says: “We recently took part in a successful research programme to survey the decommissioning sites at Sellafield using a Compton camera. These devices use multiple detection elements to track the paths of high-energy gamma rays through a detection system.“

Professor Speller is also working with the St Bart’s Hospital team to identify ways of improving baggage scanning at airports. He explains: “Even small amounts of explosives aboard an aircraft can cause enormous damage, but the current method of scanning bags with dual energy X-ray transmission is only effective at picking up large quantities of illicit materials. We are currently investigating methods of multi-energy baggage scanning which will be far more effective.”

Case Study 2

Biosensors

Dr Michael Flanagan (Electronic & Electrical Engineering) is exploring the potential of biosensors for monitoring a possible chemical or biological attack on civil installations such as the London Underground. Biosensors are biomolecular probes that measure the presence or concentration of particular molecules or biological structures.

Using biosensors to monitor chemical or biological attacks is in an early stage of development, but advances in nanotechnology are helping towards the production of viable working sensors. As Dr Flanagan explains, the most significant biosensor currently on the market is for diabetics; other biosensors detect a single specific toxin such as ricin. There is therefore a pressing need to develop new biosensors that can be taken by non-scientists into field situations and detect a range of threats in, for example, transport systems and water supplies. Ideally, these sensors will be sensitive enough to detect toxins at low concentrations and will be internally calibrating so that an unskilled user can see results immediately without lab testing.”

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Page last modified on 17 mar 11 10:47