Science

Mobile detector sniffs out would-be suicide bombers

Mobile detector sniffs out wou...
The CBD-1000 bomb detector (left) is trained on a mock suicide vest
The CBD-1000 bomb detector (left) is trained on a mock suicide vest
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The CBD-1000 bomb detector (left) is trained on a mock suicide vest
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The CBD-1000 bomb detector (left) is trained on a mock suicide vest

A beefed up security presence and metal detectors can go some way to protecting the public from the threat of suicide bombers, but they're still a tactic that is effectively deployed all too often. One entrepreneur is looking to help reveal such threats with a detector that scans subjects for shrapnel commonly used in suicide vests and explosives.

The CBD-100 is a portable device the size of a cereal box that is designed to fill the security gaps left by currently available metal detectors. Mounted on a tripod and weighing 13 lb (5.9 kg), it uses a spread spectrum, stepped continuous wave radar to bounce a signal off people and then analyzes polarized signals to assess whether or not that person may pose a threat. This process takes 1.3 seconds and can be carried out from 9 ft (2.7 m) away.

"If the person is not carrying a threat, the return signal is in the same polarity as when it was transmitted," says Robby Roberson, whose company R3 Technologies developed the device in collaboration with scientists at Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories. "A threat will rotate the polarity of the signal, and it comes back differently."

According to the developers, this technology enables the CBD-100 to pick up both metallic and nonmetallic explosives, such as ball bearings, glass, nails, ceramics, and rocks, all of which often find their way into suicide vests. In its current form, the device is designed for screening areas at airports, embassies, government buildings, border crossings and military compounds, but its portable nature means it could also be used at public events.

While the present version requires the subject to be stationary, the team is working to further develop the software so that it can actually scan people on the move and, critically, at greater distances. So the system could one day be deployed in busy train stations, for example, picking up on dangerous individuals before they can do any damage.

"We're working toward an instantaneous scan so a person can be checked while moving through the beam field. And we hope to extend the range to 100 feet (30.5 m)," Roberson says. "We want to take movement out of the equation. People who want to protect their citizens want to detect at a distance, keep the threat away. They want to scan crowds and stop threats before they get too close."

In the near-term, Roberson is aiming to first improve the CBD-100's speed, distance and accuracy, and then bring it to market later this year. He says it will cost around US$50,000 and that his company has already attracted interest from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Singapore, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Source: Sandia National Laboratories

5 comments
Grunchy
I wonder, how do you arrest somebody wearing such a vest? I'd prefer to have people pass through a detector corridor, and if the detector triggers then blast doors deploy and isolate the situation. Now you've got a lot more time and space to deal with things...
Just Cause
@Grunchy You don't arrest a suicide bomber, from 9 ft away behind a blast barrier you request they disarm the bomb if not they are shot. The problem with that, is the bomber and the people behind them in line die. Or you could take your idea and make it mobile, they walk into a tube (open at the top) that closes them in, if the are a threat the blast goes upward.
Wolf0579
You could do the same thing and probably cheaper with a mobile electroencephalograph. Religious freaks will have a distinct brainwave pattern not present in normal people.
PV
You can't shoot a suicide bomber without blowing them up...Mostly the trigger is normally closed, which is pushed open by person wearing the vest. If the person is shot and killed, the switch can not be kept open and there fore the explosion....I watch too many spy movies!!
bergamot69
@Grunchy, it isn't practical in densely populated urban situations likely to be targeted by suicide bombers to have people funnelled into queues then enter an isolated area with blast doors at each end. They would simply detonate their bombs before they reached there.
London stations are ridiculously busy, and usually handle vastly more passengers than they were designed for, with little or no room to expand. London Waterloo has nearly 100 million passengers per year entering and exiting the station. Other London termini are also extremely busy, as is the London Underground network.
@Wolf0579, have you any research to back up your claim that 'religious freaks have a distinct brainwave pattern'?