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Terahertz Sensors Demonstrate the Potential for Detection of Explosives Hidden by Clothing and Shoes

CAMBRIDGE, UK – 6 Jan 2010

TeraView, (www.teraview.com) the pioneer and leader in Terahertz solutions and technology for the homeland security and defense applications, has demonstrated for the first time the ability of Terahertz light to detect different types of plastic explosives through clothing, including PETN, the explosive which the Detroit bomber recently successfully carried onto an aircraft undetected.

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TeraView’s technology can safely, non invasively and quickly image through different types of clothing and other concealment and confusion materials. It has the capacity to detect and identify hidden explosives materials in an automated fashion without operator interpretation. The technology works by passing Terahertz light, which lies between radio and light waves in the electromagnetic spectrum, through an explosive. Explosive materials absorb this light strongly at certain Terahertz frequencies but not at others, and this ‘Terahertz fingerprint’ can be used to identify an explosive, and distinguish it from clothing or other inert materials. Because clothing is transparent at Terahertz frequencies, the Terahertz light can pass through several layers, including common garments and shoes.

Terahertz has major advantages over other technologies; it is sensitive to the presence of explosives, which is a major improvement over the standard ‘metal-only’ detectors currently deployed.  Unlike X-Rays, Terahertz does not use ionizing radiation and is safe. The ability to use software to automatically recognize Terahertz fingerprints also eliminates the need for operator interpretation of complex images as well as the significant privacy concerns that have plagued both millimeter wave and X-Ray technologies. These technologies also reveal human anatomy and have been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups; the US House of Representative recently voted 310-118 to prohibit the use of such whole body imaging for primary security screening. Terahertz overcomes all of these limitations.

Millimetre wave technology uses microwave frequencies and is often mislabeled as Terahertz. In addition to privacy concerns, it also lacks the ability to detect and utilise Terahertz fingerprints to unambiguously identify explosives and automate this detection.

TeraView’s technology is already being tested in various areas of homeland security.  The company has a collaborative agreement with the Goodrich Corporation, who manufacture Terahertz systems to detect airborne chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, which is being developed with support from the US Department of Homeland Security. Potential applications include deployment in government buildings, transportation and other public facilities and on the battlefield.

TeraView was also developed the world’s first stand off explosives detection system for laboratory evaluation supplied to the US Navy, as well as a portable Terahertz explosives detection prototype which consisted of a hand held probe prototype capable of imaging and identifying objects hidden below clothing on a subject.

Prof Sir Michael Pepper, TeraView’s Chief Scientific Officer commented: ‘The ability of Terahertz to detect certain classes of explosives through concealment and confusion materials has been previously demonstrated, and its applications are under further evaluation in the US using our systems. What is required is an additional level of development to create automated and field deployable systems that can address some of the challenges illustrated by this recent incident.’

Dr Don Arnone, Chief Executive Officer of TeraView also commented: ‘We are proud to have pioneered the development of Terahertz sensors for explosives detection with customers in both the UK and US governments. Recent events in Detroit have illustrated the need to further test and deploy technologies like Terahertz to provide extra layers of protection for passengers. We hope to do this in close collaboration with both our existing customers as well as relationships with commercial partners.  

About TeraView

TeraView is the world’s first company devoted to the application of Terahertz light for imaging and spectroscopy. TeraView’s proprietary platform uses the Terahertz spectrum between light and radio waves and offers the advantage of being non-invasive and non-destructive. Past studies have demonstrated how Terahertz uniquely and non invasively provides 3 dimensional structural and chemical information in a diverse range of applications, including weapons/explosives hidden below clothing, the contents of tablets and capsules in the pharmaceutical industry, and other objects normally invisible to conventional detection techniques. Other markets for the technology exist in medical imaging of cancer and industrial inspection which are explored via commercial partners. Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, TeraView was spun-out of the Toshiba Cambridge Research Laboratory in April 2001. Sales and support are available throughout Europe, North America and the Far East either directly or through a network of distributors.

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