Using Neutron Analysis To Find Bombs

In addition to the usual indignities of being tossed into the cargo hold and then hurled onto the baggage carousel, your luggage may also soon be bombarded by neutrons, thanks to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of LaJolla, Calif. But this is one form of harassment that none of us is likely to mind. When an Air-India Boeing 747 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 23, 1985, a disaster widely believed to be the work of a bomb, SAIC realized that technology it had developed to analyze the sulfur content of coal might be useful in detecting explosives. The LaJolia, Calif .-based company had originally - developed thermal neutron analysis to distinguish high-sulfur coal from low-sulfur coal for mining and energy companies. By adapting this technology, the firm created a machine that could be used to seek nitrogen—the key ingredient in explosives. The...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!