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ORNL Assisting In Effort To Make Skies Safer

Date:
April 23, 2002
Source:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Summary:
A simple boarding pass could safeguard air travelers if an explosives detection system being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Mass Spec Analytical is adopted.
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OAK RIDGE, Tenn., April 18, 2002 – A simple boarding pass could safeguard air travelers if an explosives detection system being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Mass Spec Analytical is adopted.

With the mass spectrometry-based instrument, a passenger’s ticket would become a passive sampling device that detects even a billionth of a gram of explosives such as nitroglycerine and TNT. The instrument works by sampling air that passes over a ticket as the paper is fed through a scanner and then identifying the chemical composition of the substances in the air. The procedure takes just a few seconds.

"If a person has been in contact with explosives, this instrument would detect it," said Gary Van Berkel, a researcher in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. "Even if the person were wearing protective clothing while handling the explosives, it would still almost certainly detect it."

The beauty of the system, Van Berkel said, is that passengers would be sampled as they wait in line, thereby avoiding random checks with swabs and other less sophisticated techniques that cause delays, produce more false positives and fail to inspect 100 percent of the passengers.

"This system would allow all of the passengers to be sampled with no increase in manpower," Van Berkel said

Mass Spec Analytical’s Jonathan Langton noted that the less sophisticated machines in use in airports do not afford the same level of protection.

The unit would sell for about $250,000 initially and would become less expensive as more units were built.

Van Berkel and collaborators have already performed many tests of the instrument, which is capable of analyzing 1,000 tickets or boarding passes per hour. One of the next steps is to incorporate a simple visual display that identifies the explosive and triggers an audible alarm. Developers also plan to add an automated calibration and threshold setting that would further prevent false alarms.

No special training would be required for o


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Materials provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Cite This Page:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "ORNL Assisting In Effort To Make Skies Safer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020419064542.htm>.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (2002, April 23). ORNL Assisting In Effort To Make Skies Safer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020419064542.htm
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "ORNL Assisting In Effort To Make Skies Safer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020419064542.htm (accessed April 15, 2024).

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