US 20090257555 A1
An inspection system, and inspection methods, based upon an imaging enclosure characterized by an enclosing body. A source of penetrating radiation and a detector module are concealed entirely within the body of a conveyance such as a trailer. A characterizing value or an image is formed with respect to an inspected object that is disposed entirely outside the conveyance and the characterizing value or image is made available to a remotely disposed operator. Additional detectors may be disposed distally to the inspected object and may detect transmitted, or forward-scattered, penetrating radiation.
1. A method for employing penetrating radiation to inspect an object, the method comprising:
a. generating a beam of penetrating radiation originating entirely within the body of a conveyance;
b. scanning the penetrating radiation across the object, the object disposed entirely outside the body of the conveyance;
c. detecting penetrating radiation scattered by the object into the body of the conveyance by means of a detector module concealed within the body of the conveyance and generating a backscatter signal; and
d. transmitting a value of a specified characteristic of the object to an operator disposed remotely to the conveyance, the value based at least in part on the backscatter signal.
2. A method in accordance with
3. A method in accordance with
forming an image of the object based at least in part on the backscatter signal.
4. A method in accordance with
generating a signal based on detection of any penetrating radiation naturally emitted by the object.
5. A method in accordance with
detecting penetrating radiation scattered by the object into the forward-scatter detector and generating a forward-scatter signal.
6. A method in accordance with
7. A method in accordance with
8. An inspection system for inspection of an object by a remotely disposed operator, the system comprising:
a. a first conveyance characterized by an enclosing body;
b. a source of penetrating radiation contained entirely within the enclosing body for generating a beam of penetrating radiation incident upon the object;
c. a detector module, contained entirely within the enclosing body, for generating a signal based upon penetrating radiation scattered by the object; and
d. an image generator for converting the signal to an image of the object for viewing by the remotely disposed operator.
9. An inspection system in accordance with
10. An inspection system in accordance with
11. An inspection system in accordance with
12. An inspection system in accordance with
The present application is a continuation-in-part application of copending U.S. Ser. No. 11/608,957, filed Dec. 11, 2006, itself a continuation-in-part application of U.S. Ser. No. 11/238,719, filed Sep. 29, 2005, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,218,704, which is a continuation application of U.S. Ser. No. 10/442,687, filed May 21, 2003, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,099,434, which was a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/330,000, filed Dec. 26, 2002, and claimed priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/424,357, filed Nov. 6, 2002, as does the present application. All of the foregoing applications are incorporated herein by reference.
The present application is also a continuation-in-part of copending U.S. Ser. No. 11/551,991, filed Oct. 23, 2006, and claims priority, through that application, to U.S. Provisional Patent Applications, Ser. No. 60/729,528, filed Oct. 24, 2005, Ser. No. 60/729,548, filed Oct. 24, 2005, and Ser. No. 60/748,909, filed Dec. 9, 2005. All of the foregoing applications are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to devices and methods for remote sensing and imaging of items concealed, typically on persons or within enclosed vehicles, by using scattered x-rays and passive sensing of gamma rays or neutrons from within a readily transportable enclosure.
X-rays are currently employed for the inspection of cargo containers, including motor vehicles, freight pallets, etc. Current technology, however, typically requires that some structure associated with the inspection system be disposed on either side of the inspected object. Thus, for example, a source of x-rays may be disposed distally with respect to the inspected object while a detection system disposed proximally to the inspected object characterizes the x-rays which have traversed the inspected object. In other modes of x-ray inspection, described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,292,533, issued Sep. 18, 2001 and incorporated herein by reference, a source of penetrating radiation is mounted on a moveable bed which is driven by a stationary cargo container, while a boom extends either a detector or a beam stop to the distal side of the cargo container. Current technology, in summary, requires that the inspected objects or persons either be moved through an inspection system or interposed between a proximal examining component and a distal examining component, one including a source and the other including a detector.
An effective means, however, is desirable for non-intrusively examining personnel as well as the interior of vehicles, cargo containers, or other objects. In particular, with respect to cargo enclosures, it is desirable to detect the presence of people, potential contraband, threats, or other items of interest, without imposing the requirements and constraints of current systems. Combining such an examination with passive sensing of radioactive or fissile material would also be advantageous.
The resolution of information obtained about the interrogated object or person is dependent upon a variety of factors including the distance between the inspection system and the object, and the magnitude and energy spectrum of the x-ray flux. In current systems, as the distance between the X-ray system and the object increases or as the flux decreases, the image resolution and quality (as manifest in the signal-to-noise, for example) decreases. The decrease in quality is substantially caused by the reduction of backscattered flux captured by the detectors. Current backscatter x-ray imaging systems locate detectors adjacent to the x-ray source, allowing the combined system of source and detectors to be as close as possible to the object being inspected. The proximity of the system to the object creates a high quality image without the need for a high x-ray flux.
However, there are many applications, especially security and surveillance applications, where a larger distance between the imaging system and the object to be inspected would be desirable. One such application is where personnel to be inspected might be carrying explosive devices carried under clothing or concealed in backpacks or bags and the risk of suicide detonation is present. Suicide bombings have often entailed large quantities of metal shrapnel packed around the explosive to maximize the lethality of the device, typically nuts, nails, or ball-bearings.
Current x-ray inspection systems are often inadequate in such applications and are rarely used in applications requiring distances greater than five feet. Current systems can counteract the decrease in image quality by increasing the size of the detectors or using higher flux x-ray sources. However, if the distances are too great, the detectors required will be impractically large. Additionally, as the flux increases, so will the objects exposure, which poses a problem when the object is, or may contain, a person.
One scenario for backscatter inspection from a mobile inspection vehicle is described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,099,434, to Adams et al., issued Aug. 29, 2006 and incorporated herein by reference. Embodiments of that invention can be highly effective at detecting large quantities of explosives or other organic materials in vehicles or other containers. One consideration, however, is that metal objects (such as artillery shells) within a metallic container (such as a vehicle) may not be well-detected unless favorably silhouetted against a brightly scattering background of organic material.
Another issue for backscatter technology is that it can sometimes be difficult to image organic materials when they are placed within or behind significant amounts of high-Z material, such as steel. An example of this might be a small quantity of explosive concealed in the trunk of a vehicle. Because the backscattered x-rays are typically detected in the backward direction (scatter angles typically in the range 140°<θ<180°), the average energy of the scattered x-rays is quite low (about 68 keV for a primary x-ray beam from a 225 kV x-ray source). These low-energy x-rays are then greatly attenuated by the steel body of the vehicle, resulting in a greatly reduced number of scattered x-rays being detected in the backscatter detectors. This problem is often exacerbated because the scattered x-rays reach backscatter detectors having passed through an intervening steel surface at an oblique angle, resulting in an effective thickness of steel that is greater than the actual gauge of the steel.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, in one of its embodiments, a method is provided for employing penetrating radiation to inspect an object. The method has steps of:
In accordance with other embodiments of the invention, the inspected object may be disposed upon a body of a person. The method may include further steps of forming an image of the object based at least in part on the backscatter signal, and of generating a signal based on detection of any penetrating radiation naturally emitted by the object.
Additionally, penetrating radiation scattered by the object in a forward direction may be detected by a forward-scatter detector, thereby generating a forward-scatter signal. The step of transmitting a value of a specified characteristic of the object to an operator disposed remotely to the conveyance may include transmitting a value based at least on both the backscatter signal and the forward-scatter signal, moreover, a value of a distinct characteristic of the object may be transmitted to the operator based at least on the forward-scatter signal.
In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, an inspection system is provided for inspection of an object by a remotely disposed operator. The inspection system has a first conveyance characterized by an enclosing body, and a source of penetrating radiation contained entirely within the enclosing body for generating a beam of penetrating radiation incident upon the object. The system also has a detector module, contained, as well, entirely within the enclosing body, for generating a signal based upon penetrating radiation scattered by the object, and an image generator for converting the signal to an image of the object for viewing by the remotely disposed operator.
In yet further embodiments, the first conveyance may be a trailer. There may, additionally, be an operator console for operation by an operator remotely disposed within a separate module coupled to the first conveyance. A forward-scatter detector may be provided, and it may be disposed entirely outside the first conveyance. Moreover, it may be coupled to a second conveyance.
The foregoing features of the invention will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description taken with the accompanying drawings:
X-ray scattering may be employed for inspection of personnel, vehicles, cargo, or other objects of interest. The term “object” is used inclusively herein to encompass any of the above. In systems employing x-ray scattering, x-rays are formed into a beam that is directed towards the object of interest. When the beam hits the object, scattered X-rays are captured by x-ray detectors and various characteristics of the scattering object may be ascertained, either globally, or with respect to a pixelated image of the object.
As used in this description and in the appended claims, a “cargo container” is a receptacle for the storage or transportation of goods, and includes freight pallets as well as vehicles, whether motorized or drawn, such as automobiles, the cab and trailer of a truck, railroad cars or ship-borne containers. The term “cargo container,” as used herein, further includes the structures and components of the receptacle.
The invention described herein serves to characterize materials which may be contained within a cargo container and thus not readily susceptible to visual scrutiny, or, alternatively, may be carried on the person of a human or on another animate subject. The characteristics of a material which might be the object of non-invasive inspection and which lend themselves to detection using the device and method taught by the invention include, but are not limited to, electron density, atomic number, mass density, linear dimensions and shape. These characteristics are unveiled by taking advantage of the various physical processes by which penetrating radiation interacts with matter.
Penetrating radiation refers to electromagnetic radiation of sufficient energy per photon to penetrate materials of interest to a substantial and useful degree and include x-rays and more energetic forms of radiation. The interaction of such radiation with matter can generally be categorized as either scattering or absorption processes. Both types of process remove x-ray photons from a collimated (i.e., directional) beam; scattering processes do so by deflecting photons into new directions (usually with loss of energy), while absorption processes simply remove photons from the beam.
Description of the rudiments of a mobile inspection system is to be found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,764,683, issued Jun. 9, 1998, and incorporated herein by reference. As used in this description and in any appended claims, the term “source” is used in a broad sense to encompass the entirety of the apparatus used to generate a beam of penetrating radiation that is used to irradiate the object under inspection. The source is taken to include the generator of penetrating radiation (the “source”, in the narrow sense) which may include an x-ray tube or a radio-isotope. It is, furthermore, to be understood that the term “source” as used herein and in any appended claims, and as designated generally by numeral 30 in the drawings, refers to the entirety of the apparatus used to generate beam 24, and may have internal components that include, without limitation, apertures, choppers, collimators, etc.
Scatter imaging in which the x-rays scattered by a material (typically in a generally backward direction) are employed offers several unique inspection capabilities and operational features. Scatter imaging allows images to be obtained even when the imaged object is accessible from only one side. Moreover, since the scatter signal falls off quite rapidly with increasing depth into the object, backscatter images effectively represent a “slice” of the object characteristic of the side nearest to the x-ray source, thereby reducing problems of image clutter that may confound transmission images. The Compton effect, which dominates x-ray scatter in the energy range typically employed in accordance with the present invention, dominates the interaction of x-rays with dense low-atomic-number (low-Z) materials. Narcotic drugs tend to produce the bright signatures in a backscatter image, as do organic explosives, making backscatter imaging a useful imaging modality for bomb or drug detection. Finally, alignment requirements of the x-ray beam with detectors or collimation devices are less exacting than for transmission imaging thereby enabling rapid deployment in a wide range of inspection scenarios.
Flying-spot technology makes possible the acquisition of images using detectors specifically positioned to collect the scattered x-rays. In a typical flying-spot system, a thin “pencil beam” of x-rays is rapidly and repetitively swept through a source-centered, vertically-oriented “fan” of beam paths that are arranged to intercept the object under inspection. At the same time, the object is moved at a constant, slower speed along a path perpendicular to the fan, on a horizontally moving conveyor belt for example. In this way, the pencil beam is made to traverse the object in point-by-point raster fashion, and the entire object is scanned as it passes through the fan plane over a period ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes depending upon the length of the object.
Although the total scan time may be seconds to minutes in duration, the actual exposure time of any part of the scanned object is only the brief time it takes for the pencil beam to sweep across a given pixel. That exposure time is typically in the range of microseconds, depending on the design and the application, and yields an entrance exposure to the scanned object that constitutes a low dose to the object also means that there is little radiation available to scatter into the environment, so the doses to operators and other bystanders is correspondingly low.
Referring now to
Contained within enclosure 714 of conveyance 710 is a source 730 including x-ray tube 732 (shown in
Various means are known in the art for mechanically or electronically sweeping a beam of penetrating radiation, including, for example, the rotating chopper wheel 734 depicted in
Detector modules 100 are carried by conveyance 710 and typically enclosed within enclosing body 714 and concealed from view from outside the conveyance. They may also be carried outside the conveyance for particular applications within the scope of the present invention. Detector modules contain detectors for detecting penetrating radiation from source 730 that has interacted with, and scattered from, contents of the inspected object 712.
The source of scattering may be characterized as anomalous for the nature of the person or item being scanned. Thus, a person 50 (shown in
Detector modules 100 may also be sensitive both to emission naturally emitted by threat materials, as further described, for example, in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/156,989, filed May 29, 2002, entitled “Detectors for X-Rays and Neutrons,” which is incorporated herein by reference. In accordance with various embodiments of the present invention, a detector is employed of the type having high efficiency for detecting thermal and epi-thermal (intermediate energy, typically 1-104 eV) neutrons. The detector uses the scintillator Gd2O2S, commonly known, and referred to herein, as “gadox,” to stop both neutrons and the photons. X-ray-induced scintillations from the gadox in the visible portion of the spectrum are then detected, typically by photomultipliers or photodiodes. Alternative scintillators, such as LiF, for example, with high cross sections for detecting thermal and epithermal neutrons are also within the scope of the present invention.
Separate, large-area detectors are deployed adjacent to the beam plane on the x-ray source side of the scanned object, and with their active surfaces oriented toward the scanned object. These detectors need only provide a large solid angle for collection of scattered radiation; no critical alignments are required. In this location these detectors respond to x-rays which are scattered generally back toward the source from the object.
In accordance with the present invention, various inspection modalities currently in use for detection of contraband materials may additionally be used for finding fissionable material in the containers they examine. Some methods are passive; i.e., the emission of neutrons or gamma rays from radioactive materials may be signatures for an alert. Several methods for carrying out such passive measurements are described in copending U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/396,034, filed Jul. 15, 2002, and incorporated herein by reference. Other methods are active; i.e., penetrating radiation irradiates a container thereby exciting fluorescence of the fissile material and the characteristic x-rays of uranium or plutonium produce an alert signal.
Inspection of object 712 may be conducted by an operator disposed within conveyance 710, or, alternatively, by a remotely disposed operator. For inspection, object 712 may be maintained in a stationary condition, with conveyance 710 traversing the object along direction 720 (forwards or backwards), alternatively, inspection may be conducted while both conveyance 710 and inspected object 712 are in motion. In yet another mode, referred to as a “portal mode,” the system is stationary and the object of inspection is conveyed past the system. Where the object of inspection is a person, the person may be required to walk past the conveyance slowly, preferably in both directions, so that both sides of the person can be subjected to search.
Referring further to
In a preferred embodiment, particularly useful for lower energy (140 keV-160 keV) x-ray systems, the output from backscatter detectors 100 are switched to a pulse counting circuit during the fraction of the operating cycle during which the source of x-ray irradiation is off. During this period, individual neutrons or gamma rays can be detected and analyzed. The efficiency of the backscatter detectors of an x-ray inspection system for detecting neutrons or gamma ray has been discussed above.
Referring only to gamma ray detection for purposes of illustration, the 186 keV gamma rays are emitted in 53% of the decays of 235U but only a thin layer of the bulk uranium is accessible since the mean free path of 186 keV gammas in uranium is only 0.36 mm. Still, every square centimeter of 10% enriched uranium will emit two thousand 186 keV gamma photons per second, giving rise to a count of 2,000×0.004=8 counts for every square centimeter of surface area of uranium that faces the detectors. A 1″ cube of uranium (weighing ˜¾ pounds) would signal its presence with ˜50 counts in the 0.2 second off-period of the inspection. A signal of this magnitude is easily discriminated. The signal strength is further increased by increasing detection efficiency, enlarging the detectors, and increasing the off-time of the sweeping x-ray beam.
In a “stationary mode,” both the system and the object being scanned are stationary, and a vehicle-mounted x-ray scanning method, configured as a part of the system itself, is employed to create in effect both horizontal and vertical scanning to generate a backscatter x-ray image. Such methods may include the use of an x-y translation stage, electronically-steered x-ray sources (as described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,421,420, or other means.
In other embodiments of the invention, now described with reference to
The x-ray beam is swept in a vertical swath, depicted schematically by the partial plane designated by numeral 802. An inspected object 804, exemplified here by a vehicle, is scanned by x-rays as it traverses plane 802. X-rays scattered by object 804 are detected by detector modules 100, which x-rays transmitted, or forward-scattered, through object 804 and detected by transmission or forward-scatter detectors (not shown) disposed within a forward-detection housing 806.
In accordance with preferred embodiments, imaging module 800 is deployed operationally in conjunction with one or more other containers, as shown in
Detection, using illumination by penetrating radiation, either from a mobile platform such as the Mobile Inspection Van described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,099,434, or from a fixed platform such as the Ruggedized Detection Imaging Module™ (RDIM), may be enhanced with respect to the detection of metal objects, such as might be concealed, for example, within a metal container. Embodiments of the present invention offer improved detection of a metal object within a metal container by adding a stationary transmission detector on the other side of the object being scanned with a pencil beam, where the source of the pencil beam, and either backscatter, forward scatter, or transmission detectors are concealed from view from the vantage of the inspected object.
Thick metallic materials disposed can be clearly seen in the transmission image, derived as shown in
One way to help mitigate the problem of imaging organic materials within or behind significant amounts of high-Z material (such as metal) is to add some forward-scatter detectors 500 as shown in
A method for integrating the horizontal section of the transmission detector 414 and the forward scatter detectors 500 into a rapidly deployable module is shown in
It should be noted that all the claims made in this disclosure are applicable not only to the Mobile Inspection Van as in the earlier referenced patent application, but also to any application of radiation backscatter technology, such as in a ruggedized shipping container that contains similar subsystems as a Mobile Inspection Van.
Returning now to embodiments of the invention in which the relative motion of conveyance 710 and object 712 (shown in
The vehicle speed may be regulated, or, alternatively, the pixel registration may be corrected to compensate for vehicle speed anomalies so as to produce aspect-ratio-correct, distortion-free, backscatter x-ray images. Relevant techniques include but are not limited to:
The foregoing methods for control and correction of relative motion variations may be used either singly or in combination, within the scope of the present invention. Sensors 718 may additionally provide for control of x-ray beam direction such that the relative speed and track angle of the source with respect to the scanned object may be actively tracked. This capability may advantageously allow improved images to be formed at faster speeds and, additionally, allow for relative motion that is not purely unidirectional. It should be noted, additionally, that in circumstances where no horizontal spatial resolution is required, detection of relative motion is obviated.
In the drive-by case, dosage to stationary people is readily reduced below regulatory thresholds provided vehicle speed is maintained above a specified minimum while x-rays are on. An interlock is provided to cut off x-ray generation when vehicle motion ceases or falls below a specified minimum speed. Otherwise, x-rays may be enabled regardless of proximity to objects.
For the stationary case, or for drive-by cases where additional safety measures are required or desired, proximity sensors, such as laser, microwave, ultrasound, or thermal sensors, for example, may be employed to determine the presence of objects to be scanned, enabling x-rays only when necessary, and/or to discern if humans are in the beam path. These sensors typically operate all the time, with their signals processed via software and/or hardware to intelligently control x-ray generation. The operator may also be provided with a manual “x-ray enable/deadman” control, in addition to any other safety devices and controls.
Features of the present invention may advantageously be employed in applications including, but not limited to, the following:
Embodiments of the present invention (which may be referred to as “Z-Radar”™) are now described with reference to
Penetrating radiation 106 scattered by the inspected object is detected in large-area x-ray detectors 108, and the signal generated by detectors 108 is compared, by controller 112, with the expected signal from organic objects illuminated with x-rays at that distance. Objects containing metals absorb the x-rays, resulting in a backscatter signal which is lower than the signal expected from a purely organic object.
Inspected objects can include without limitation people or any object which consists mostly of organic material, on or within which a determination of the metallic content is desired. For example, the metallic shrapnel used by a suicide bomber to maximize the lethality of the explosive being carried may be detected, or the presence of metallic weapons, such as guns and knives may be detected.
In some embodiments, the object to be examined is initially located and tracked with a system utilizing one or more video cameras 114, although any other optical or non-optical means may also be employed, within the scope of the invention.
Referring now to
Embodiments may also be suitable for determining the presence of organic materials on or within objects which largely consist of metallic materials. An example of this could be looking for explosives concealed in the door of a vehicle. For this application, interrogation points with a higher than expected signal are indicative of the presence of concealed organic material.
For objects which are relatively close to the x-ray source, the backscatter signal can also be used to detect the presence of dense organic material (such as explosives) concealed on an organic target object with a lower density. These materials tend to backscatter x-rays somewhat more strongly than less dense organic materials, such as the human body.
In Table 1, the results of a computer simulation are shown for an x-ray backscatter interrogation system operating at three source voltages of 160 kV, 450 kV, and 1.2 MeV. The simulations involved looking at the backscatter signal from a person at various distances, and comparing the signal with the signal from a person carrying a steel sheet or a person carrying PETN explosive containing ball-bearings as shrapnel. The signal to noise ratio (SNR) is defined by:
where NPerson is the number of detected backscattered x-rays from a person carrying no steel and NPerson+Steel is the number of detected backscattered x-rays from a person carrying steel. It can be seen that the performance of the 225 kV and 450 kV systems is essentially the same, but considerably better than the performance of the 1.2 MV system. Since a 160 kV system would be much cheaper and more compact than a 450 kV system, a preferred source voltage is about 160 kV. The following Table indicates the results of a computer simulation showing the signal-to-noise ratio for detecting metal on a person (in the form of a steel sheet or a matrix of 0.25″ ball-bearings) with an x-ray backscatter interrogation system operating at three different source voltages and various standoff distances.
As discussed above, some embodiments employ techniques for calibrating the strength of the detected backscatter signal with a reference signal in order to determine whether the signal from an interrogation point is low enough to signify the presence of metal. This can be done in a number of ways:
1. Determine the distance to the target object being interrogated (for example, by using information from the video system or using a laser range finder) and use lookup tables to determine the maximum backscatter signal for metallic material. One disadvantage of this approach is that the system hardware should be relatively stable.
One method for simultaneously acquiring interrogation data and obtaining a reference signal is illustrated in
One specific embodiment of the present invention operates as follows:
1. An operator identifies a suspicious target which he wishes to interrogate with the system. This could be done, for example, by clicking a mouse on the suspicious object in a video image. The operator may wish to identify, for example, a person wearing bulky clothing or carrying a backpack.
Equipment and methods are presented here to extend the useful range of Compton scatter imaging systems by separating the location of the x-ray detectors from the x-ray source. In each application the detectors are closer to the subject than the rest of the imaging system, allowing for more scattered flux to be collected than if the detectors were co-located with the x-ray source and other equipment. The arrangement of source, target, and detector is analogous to many applications of bi-static radar.
Because a number of factors figure in the ability to form images from a distance, extending the useful range of a backscatter imaging system may provide one or more of the following advantages: better image quality for a given distance, larger field of view for a given image quality at a given distance, shorter scan time to produce a given image quality at a given distance, and reduced dose to target for a given image quality at a given distance. Long range imaging systems have a variety of security applications. Reduced dose imaging systems are particularly important for the inspection of people.
An inspection system in accordance with preferred embodiments of the present invention is now described with reference to
In one embodiment of the present invention, now described with reference to
Regions that are found interesting can be scanned more closely using traditional methods whereby both source 12 and detector 14 are placed as close as possible to the area under inspection.
Application to Locate People in Rooms from Adjacent Rooms
In another embodiment of the present invention, shown in
In such a configuration, operators are able to first produce a low-dose/low-quality scan that might provide enough information to separate perpetrators from victims. Then, if needed, higher quality higher-dose images could be produced of the perpetrators. In this way, high dose could be limited to a hostage taker while minimizing dose to innocent hostages.
As shown in
In the portal operating mode, the range of the ZBV 90 is extended by deploying additional detectors 14 nearer to target 13, as shown in
Detectors 14 are one of the lighter components of the overall x-ray system. A small number of auxiliary detectors can fit into the coach of ZBV 90. A larger supply of detectors can be towed in a small trailer (not shown) behind ZBV 90, or transported in other support vehicles (not shown). As shown in
An inspection system for detecting possible improvised explosive devices (IEDs), in accordance with the present invention, is now described with reference to
The location of detector 14 with respect to IED 40 causes different shadowing effects in the resulting image. If detector 14 is placed on only one side of primary x-ray beam 44, the image will have shadows analogous to what one would see in a photograph with the camera at the position of x-ray source 12 and with a light source at the location of x-ray detector 14. These shadows often prove useful in interpreting images, as they give objects a three dimensional appearance and make certain edges more apparent. More edges can be enhanced by moving detector 14 to a new location, or using several detectors simultaneously with data from each detector 14 processed separately. Experiments at AS&E have shown that the effect can be even more useful when images from several detectors at two or more angles are mixed in different ratios.
Two or more detectors 14 on two or more robots 42 can be used to fully exploit this detector mixing concept. Alternately, after a single image is produced using a single detector 14, detector 14 can be moved to a new location while x-ray source 12 does not move, and then a second image is produced. These sequential images could be combined (to increase the effective flux) and mixed in different ratios to exploit different possible shadow configurations.
A fully mobile variant of the previous embodiment is capable of ‘sweeping’ for roadside IEDs, as shown in
As depicted in
Variations in the speed of vehicle 46 can cause distortions in the image. These variations typically do not inhibit the interpretations of backscatter images, however, the distortions might be more problematic in long-range applications. A scan drive might be employed to regulate the speed of both vehicle 46 carrying x-ray source 12, and robotic drone vehicle 42 carrying detector 14.
A greater challenge is posed by uneven road surfaces and bumps in the road. These cause x-ray source 12 to bounce up and down, producing corresponding distortions in the image. Although these distortions are usually not a problem for scans at a distance of a few feet, their effect will grow in proportion to the distance. A change in the attitude of the vehicle of one degree, for example, will move beam 20 only 1″ at a distance of 5 feet. However, beam 20 will be displaced by 6″ at a distance of 30 feet. A given distortion will be even more apparent (relative to existing systems) because long range systems such as the present invention will typically work with much smaller fields of view than have been used on short range systems.
In accordance with various embodiments of the invention, x-ray source 12 is stabilized using the same technologies that are used to stabilize the cannon on a modern tank. Since the chopper wheel (not shown) itself is large gyroscope, the chopper wheel may be mounted on a suspension of gimbals and shock absorbers to minimize changes in attitude of x-ray beam 20 while vehicle 46 moves over uneven terrain.
The image is much less sensitive to changes in the position of detector 14. Changes in attitude or elevation of detector 14 during a scan would cause only small changes in the shadowing of the image, which would not interfere with interpretation of the image, and would likely not even be noticed.
In another embodiment of the bi-static backscatter concept, persons or vehicles subject to inspection might be directed to traverse a well defined region. This region might be a walkway in an airport or a roadway or tunnel through which vehicles pass.
Existing concepts for inspecting every person in such a situation require space for a complete backscatter source and detector adjacent to the through-way. Moreover, subjects must pass through the beam at a specified speed, subjects are only inspected from the side, and every subject passing through the inspection area must be irradiated.
Situations where any one of the above constraints is unacceptable can be addressed by a configuration such as is shown in
In each of these systems, operators select person 56 (in
If passageway 60 is a narrow hallway, (or if the roadway passes through a tunnel) then detectors 14 can easily be concealed in walls and/or ceiling or disguised as part of the walls or ceiling. In some circumstances it might also be feasible to build detectors 14 into the surface of passageway 60. In a configuration where detectors 14 are deployed in the walls, floor, and ceiling of a tunnel, it is possible to achieve coverage of nearly 4π sr, thereby making use of the greatest possible fraction of scattered photons. Such a system achieves far higher collection efficiency of scattered photons than current near-field, Compton scatter imaging systems.
As shown in
The use of multiple X-ray sources 12, or even a single x-ray source 12 which can be aimed from the middle towards both ends of passageway 60, allows operators to image person 56 or vehicle 58 from multiple angles. If multiple X-ray sources 12 are aimed at the same object, or objects that are near to one another, then the X-ray sources 12 need to be electronically synchronized so that at any instant, only one is shooting.
Encoders on the source-aiming mechanics may be used to identify target location(s) and only allow signal from nearest detectors to be processed, in order to limit electronic noise and air scatter.
By imaging person 56 or vehicle 58 from a distance, speed becomes a less critical factor than in near field imaging systems, because angular speed is much smaller when viewed from a distance. Imaging the target from an angle that is nearly in line with the target's direction of motion further reduces apparent angular movement and further facilitates the imaging of a moving object.
Detectors 14 built into the floor or road surface, as shown in
Detector 14 may be concealed, by camouflage 64, or otherwise, in some cases, at the further expense of attenuating the x-ray signal. In outdoor applications, a thin layer of dirt or leaves might be used. In an airport walkway a thin sheet of plastic with decorative patterns could obscure any identifying features of detector 14.
In another embodiment, shown in
Detectors 14 are arrayed in or on the ground in the region for surveillance. X-ray source 12 is in a central location, able to “shoot” at all regions where detectors 14 are located. This way X-ray flux used for imaging each pixel of a given target is roughly independent of distance, because no matter where in the region object 82 stands, object 82 is still roughly the same distance from the nearest detectors 14. X-ray source 12 might scan azimuthally through as much as 360 degrees, in a manner similar to a radar system.
In this continuous sweep mode, once the scan area is surveyed, the backscatter signal at any point should not change unless a new object were introduced. Therefore, a computer could monitor the image, or just the integrated signal from any given region in the image, and alert human operators in the event of a change. A sudden increase in image density might indicate the presence of a living intruder (person or animal). More subtle changes might indicate motion of objects (e.g. vehicles entering the region, or movement of camouflaged people/vehicles that have been hiding in the region since before the scan started). Alternately, an optical or infrared imaging system might be used in a similar way to automatically detect potential threats. Once a potential threat is flagged, the system could automatically begin a more detailed Compton x-ray scan to produce an image to be analyzed by a human operator.
Pressure sensors (not shown) might be integrated with detectors 14 in the ground. In this case, the pressure sensors would be the first detection system. Then a computer might automatically aim the X-ray beam 20 at the region in question and produce an image.
A continuous sweep mode may also be used to scan a crowd for potential suicide bombers.
Pressure sensors integrated with detectors 14 and placed in the ground around detectors 14 may be used to sense when object 82 is moving in parallel with the path of the beam. This information can be used by an automatic safety system to limit the dose to object 82 by shutting off beam 20 or changing the sweep path. The best solid angle coverage is achieved with a tiled pattern of detectors 14 ‘carpeting’ the ground.
In certain embodiments of the invention, detectors 14 may be camouflaged by thin layer of dirt, or otherwise concealed, although some forms of camouflage may result in a reduction in signal. Alternatively, or additionally, detectors 14 may also be hidden in above-ground objects such as artificial rocks or trees, although a large solid angle coverage would be unlikely in this case.
Detectors 14 may be deployed as free standing monoliths 68, as shown in
Electronic noise could be limited by only processing signals from those detectors 14 that are near the target of the x-ray beam 20.
If the beam 20 is fired directly towards a detector 14, that signal is processed separately, as it would be predominantly a transmission image signal rather than a Compton scatter signal. Encoders on the source positioning device could indicate the position of the x-ray beam spot in order to indicate to the control system when detector 14 is in the direct path of beam 20.
The electronics and software are designed to allow the user to deploy and configure any number of detectors 14 in any chosen configuration. Different terrain and different applications would require different configurations and numbers of detectors 14.
Air scatter becomes a more important consideration when scanning at a distance. Detectors 14 near to the primary beam 20 receive an air scatter signal which will ‘fog’ the image. The noise caused by this effect might be mitigated by reading the signals from detectors 14 at different distances in separate channels 74, as is shown in
Although various exemplary embodiments of the invention have been disclosed, it should be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made which will achieve some of the advantages of the invention without departing from the true scope of the invention.