recommended reading

DHS and academic researchers build a better shoe bomb . . . detector

A  Homeland Security screener looks at an X-ray scan of a suitcase of a train passenger in 2006.

A Homeland Security screener looks at an X-ray scan of a suitcase of a train passenger in 2006. // Mike Derer/AP file photo

The Homeland Security Department has funded a $1.1 million project at Northeastern University to advance the technique of using medical CT scans for bomb detection.

The research will be aimed at modifying computer tomography systems to automatically recognize explosives and items that can be used for detonation, according to federal business databases.

The award is part of a five-year agreement with the Boston-based school to develop a means of detecting and responding to bomb threats. In 2010, DHS forged partnerships with Northeastern and about 10 other institutions in areas such as border security and animal diseases contagious to humans, department officials stated at the time. Homeland Security annually assigns individual research orders to the participating schools, valued at up to $5 million total, per university.

Under this new grant, Northeastern’s roughly $3 million-a-year Awareness and Location of Explosives-Related Threats, or ALERT, program is designing sensor enhancements for CT detection systems.

The ALERT agreement also involves prototyping next-generation baggage screening and “suspicious passenger identification” tools, DHS officials said this week. Researchers are expected to execute the new project and the other potential experiments by devising algorithms for detecting triggers intended to set off improvised explosive devices, as well as mathematical formulas for improving baggage screening and for determining the best way to soften the effects of blasts.

According to the 2010 partnership announcement, to help reduce the blow from explosions, students and faculty will conduct fundamental research in three specific areas: the classification of explosives as commercial, military or homemade through analyzing crystal structures and reactivity; the detection of traces of explosives for eventually building sensors with more precise sensitivity and greater flexibility; and the understanding of construction materials to fortify bridges, tunnels, dams and other critical infrastructure against blasts.

Other “centers of excellence” involved in the 2010 five-year agreements include Texas A&M University, which is leading research into the prevention of diseases spread by animals like bird flu; and the University of Arizona, which is expanding the body of scientific knowledge on border security. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is developing procedures to contain economic fallout and human casualties following natural disasters.

During the past several weeks, federal agencies and contractors have announced more than $840 million worth of bomb detection investments. On Sept. 26, officials at L-3 Communications said they won a potential $549.6 million contract from the Transportation Security Administration, part of Homeland Security, to supply explosives detection machines for bag screening. Throughout several days in September, TSA disclosed purchases of compact, next-generation body scanners from L-3, American Science and Engineering Inc. and Smiths Detection totaling $245 million. Earlier in September, DHS signed A-T Solutions to a five-year, $46 million deal aimed at countering homegrown bombers, company officials said.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.