New X-ray technology solves a major problem of screening systems

New X-ray technology solves a major problem of screening systems

Landmine detection, medical imaging and airport baggage screening could all benefit from a new technology developed by Melbourne researchers, which is believed to make x-ray and gamma-ray detection up to 50 times faster.

Developed by Mr Paul Scoullar and Professor Rob Evans in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the technology is based on the development of a new way of analysing x-rays and gamma-rays and overcomes a problem that has been restricting nuclear physicists for years – ‘pulse pile-up’.

X-ray and gamma-ray detectors are used across a wide range of applications, including landmine detection, baggage and cargo screening, mineral analysis, oil exploration and medical imaging and work by monitoring how easily the rays pass through the ground or cargo, for example, to get a picture of what is inside.

“The problem with current detection systems is that they can’t cope with many rays, or pulses, coming in quick succession because they can’t distinguish between them and instead sums them together and sees them as a single pulse – this is referred to as pulse pile-up,” Mr Scoullar says.

“This leads to distortions in the results and is typically dealt with by just removing the distorted section and then continuing with detection. This obviously slows down the time it takes to get the blue-print of the target and also places limits on current detection systems.”

The University of Melbourne team through the Cooperative Research Centre for Sensor Signal and Information Processing have developed a new way of depicting incoming pulses as they enter x-ray and gamma-ray detection systems, overcoming this problem of pulse pile-up.

Their system passes incoming data through an algorithm they have developed, which effectively reduces the recorded pulse width to a few nanometres so the problem of two pulses being recorded on top of one another is greatly reduced.

Melbourne-based company Southern Innovation has been created by Mr Scoullar to commercialise this technology.

Already the venture has been awarded an AusIndustry grant for Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) in late 2004 and a podium finish in the Melbourne University Entrepreneurs Challenge and a City of Melbourne Manufacturers Award in 2003.

The team was also recently awarded a City of Melbourne Small Business Development Grant.

Southern Innovation Chief Operating Officer, Mr Peter Styles says, “There are a vast range of industries using radiation technologies that will benefit from this new technology. Southern Innovation has already developed a working prototype which has been presented to research experts and companies across Australia, the United States and Canada.”

The University of Melbourne, Media Release, August 2005.

Article courtesy of the The University of Melbourne August 16, 2005:

About Southern Innovation:
Southern Innovation develops, markets and licenses patented pulse processing technologies for the rapid, accurate detection and measurement of radiation. The company was born out of research to review suitable technologies for the accurate and rapid detection of legacy landmines. Southern Innovation’s multi-award winning SITORO┬« technology provides a quantum leap in the efficiency of radiation detectors, with wide application in areas such as airport baggage screening, oil exploration, mineral analysis and the early detection of cancer. For more information contact