MRI breakthrough for screening liquids

Nov 26, 2013
A small bottle of white wine is placed inside the MagRay bottle scanner system.

(Phys.org) —Los Alamos scientists have advanced a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology that may provide a breakthrough for screening liquids at airport security. They've added low-power X-ray data to the mix, and as a result have unlocked a new detection technology. Funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, the new system is named MagRay.

The goal is to quickly and accurately distinguish between that visually appear identical. For example, what appears to be a bottle of white wine could potentially be nitromethane, a liquid that could be used to make an explosive. Both are clear liquids, One would be perfectly safe on a commercial aircraft, the other would be strictly prohibited.  How to tell them apart quickly without error at an area is the focus of Michelle Espy, Larry Schultz and their team.

"One of the challenges for the screening of liquids in an airport is that, while traditional X-ray based baggage scanners provide high throughput with good resolution of some threats, there is limited sensitivity and selectivity for liquid discrimination," said Espy, a Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist and MagRay Project Leader. "While MRI can differentiate liquids, there are a certain class of explosives, those that are complex, homemade, or may have mixes of all kinds of stuff that are more challenging."

In a new video, Espy and the MagRay team explain how the new technology works, how they've developed an easy operator interface, and what the next steps might be in transitioning this technology to the private sector.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"I am amazed at how good it works," said Espy.  "We've been able to look at a really broad class of explosives, we've been able to look through all kinds of packaging, and we've unlocked a new parameter – proton content – that's not available to either X-ray or MRI alone."

MagRay engineer Larry Schultz puts a bottle of surrogate material that mimic home made explosives into the MagRay bottle scanner.

"We're looking for where a liquid lies in a sort of three-dimensional space of MRI, proton content, and X-ray density," said Schultz, MagRay engineer. "With those measures we find that benign liquids and threat liquids separate real nicely in this space, so we can detect them quickly with a very high level of confidence."

Explore further: Team creates highly portable imaging system

Related Stories

Menace in a bottle: Detecting liquid explosives

Oct 02, 2007

After the plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airlines with liquid explosives was uncovered in London in August 2006, there has been pressure on the airline industry, and Homeland Security, to find new ways to ...

Good liquid, bad liquid (Video)

Feb 05, 2009

For airline passengers everywhere, good news. Scientists have successfully tested a liquid explosive detection system that may eventually keep dangerous substances off airplanes. This comes barely two years ...

New scanner aims to make liquids on planes safer

Oct 14, 2010

The latest airport security technology being developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory could open the door for airline passengers to bring their soft drinks and full-size shampoo bottles on board again.

Team creates highly portable imaging system

Jun 26, 2013

Los Alamos National Laboratory and Tribogenics, the pioneer of innovative X-ray solutions, have partnered to create a unique, lightweight, compact, low-cost X-ray system that uses the MiniMAX (Miniature, ...

Liquids scanner for airport security

Feb 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Air passengers one day may be able to carry their soaps, shampoo and bottled water onto the plane again, thanks to technology originally developed at UC Davis to check the quality of wine.

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

12 hours ago

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

14 hours ago

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

World's first successful visualisation of key coenzyme

14 hours ago

Japanese researchers have successfully developed the world's first imaging method for visualising the behaviour of nicotine-adenine dinucleotide derivative (NAD(P)H), a key coenzyme, inside cells. This feat ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...