Computer chips that can detect explosives

Israeli and German researchers have developed an affordable and portable detection technology to meet everyday security needs using small, radiation-enabled chips that can see through packaging and clothing.

Dr Eran Socher of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Engineering is reconfiguring existing complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) chips designed for computers and turning them into high frequency circuits. “The existing advanced security technology is massive in size and comes with a massive price tag. Such scanning systems are often developed for selected airports or used by Nasa for space exploration.

Our concept is different. For everyday use, security technology needs to be both small and cheap,” Socher said in a statement. By adding new capabilities to existing CMOS technology, already mass-produced for computers and other mobile devices, the researchers are producing new integrated circuits at an affordable price in a collaboration between teams at TAU and Frankfurt University.

“The chip can also produce a more accurate depiction of concealed objects, an advantage over common metal detectors which aren’t very specific or sensitive,” Socher said.
The chip, which measures a miniature 0.5 mm by 0.5 mm, newly integrates antennae, giving it the ability to receive and transmit millimetre wave or terahertz radiation.

When combined with either mechanical or electronic scanning technology, the resulting radiation can produce an image. Unlike X-ray technology which penetrates the body, the chip is designed to see only through materials such as envelopes, clothing, or luggage, stopping at the human skin.

The research has been published in IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters and will be presented at the International Conference on Infrared, Millimetre, and Terahertz Waves in Australia this September.

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