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Improving the performance of cargo screening with particle accelerator science

Rapiscan Systems is using the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) particle accelerator facilities for innovative testing to improve the performance of systems that screen cargo for customs and security purposes.


The efficient and secure movement of goods is important for national security and economic prosperity. Rapiscan Systems is a global provider of X-ray inspection systems for screening cargo, vehicles, baggage, and parcels, and constantly invests in new research and development (R&D) to maintain its position at the forefront of innovative technological developments. In particular, Rapiscan Systems (working with University College London, UCL) was interested in generating three-dimensional X-ray images for more comprehensive cargo screening to improve the detection of contraband and illicit material hidden within dense metal objects. In order to effectively test this technology, Rapiscan Systems wanted to avoid the limitations of ‘off-the-shelf’ accelerators and instead sought out a high-energy linear accelerator facility with controllable conditions and expertise in particle acceleration.


left-hand quote markRapiscan Systems is committed to ensuring the safety and security of cargo transport and the development of new and innovative imaging techniques. STFC’s high quality particle accelerator facilities, along with their expertise in particle acceleration, have been instrumental in helping us to carry out critical R&D testing.right-hand quote mark

Dr. James Ollier, Senior Radiation Physicist, Rapiscan Systems

STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory provided Rapiscan Systems with the ideal environment to perform the proof-of-principle and proof-of-concept experiments. Its particle acceleration facilities enabled the team to test the technology at high energy levels, and allowed for scattering X-ray photons off a variety of materials. Their scatter detectors provided valuable information to the scientists at Rapiscan Systems as they aimed to reduce the amount of scatter. These experiments are designed to examine the time of flight of the photons between the source of the X-ray photon and an object, allowing algorithms to approximate the position of an object. This type of photon counting can be done only at Daresbury Laboratory due to its high-precision equipment and controlled conditions. In addition, in order for the company to carry out its testing, STFC engineers developed specific equipment, which will be leveraged in future STFC projects as well.


Rapiscan Systems is committed to the advancement of its X-ray inspection technology for screening cargo and vehicles, to help ensure the safety and security of ports and borders and they have been able to more effectively test, validate, and improve their products and processes with the assistance provided by STFC. STFC’s unique facilities, the expertise of their particle accelerator scientists, and their extended relationships with universities and researchers have greatly enhanced Rapiscan System’s R&D process.

Rapiscan case study (PDF, 1140 KB)

Last updated: 11 February 2020


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