Energetic Materials : Standoff Detection of Explosives

via Differential Reflectometry

Since 9/11 the demand for improved airport security has grown dramatically.  As a result, the market is driving the development of novel sensing technology specifically for the detection of explosives. Our research team is developing a method for detecting trace amounts of explosive material on the surface of passenger luggage. This novel method will be more reliable, cost effective, and efficient than the currently deployed methods.

Actual Prototype


Relevance and Goals

Differential reflectometry has been shown to be an effective, standoff, optical detection technique which operates in the near ultraviolet (UV) spectral range, (patent recently accepted). The goals of this project are:

  • Improve the present optical standoff device for explosives detection to a prototype instrument.
  • Insert this optical standoff detector into a commercial baggage scanner to be placed ahead of the X-ray metal detector.
  • Conduct tests on a large number of explosives and inert materials to demonstrate discrimination between explosives and non-explosives.
  • Improve the curve recognition program which indicates the type of individual explosives.
  • Extend the above technique to detect illegal drugs.


    • Safe (no harmful emissions)
    • Fast (millisecond range detection time).
    • Rugged
    • Inexpensive and portable
    • No wiping of baggage
    • No human involvement and judgment required.
    • Does not require contact with an explosive
    • Does not need ingestion of the material to be tested into the instrument
    • Does not require additional manpower since an acoustical signal alerts the X-ray scanning operator of a potential problem.
    • Does not reveal anatomical details of inspected persons