Move Over X-rays, Muon Tomography is Coming

Bi-Lingual Newspaper which focuses on Logistic News and Information for Panama and Around the Globe

Original article, Move over X-rays, muon tomography is coming, from The Bulletin Panama, November 17, 2014.

Bi-Lingual Newspaper which focuses on Logistic News and Information for Panama and Around the Globe

Muon tomography may sound like a medical or science fiction term, but it is actually a scanning technology available today that threatens the X-ray. This was the explanation given to members of the Panamanian Association of Cargo Agents by Mr. Hampton Dowling, Managing Partner of HCB Group, LLC. After explaining the dangers and disadvantages of X-ray scanners, Mr. Dowling explained that in outer space, the high-energy protons are omni-present, and on entering the Earth’s upper atmosphere produce a light rain of secondary particles. There are many cosmic ray charged particles generated, two of which have an application for cargo monitoring.

Panama is using outdated security methods for cargo. “Electrons and muons are highly penetrating, subatomic particles that are moving constantly through all objects on Earth – including humans – and do not lose energy near the center of the earth. Approximately 5,000 muons pass through each of us every minute” said Mr. Dowling. “Generally speaking, the material can be discriminated accurately based on the combined signatures, i.e., by measuring the thousands of angular differences of muons as they enter and leave environment digitalization dispersion. “Those differences, analyzed, provide information on materials, not only identifying the shape and size, but the identification data can be compared with the information associated with the materials in large libraries of corresponding data that exist. “What is relevant to the challenges of integrity of the supply chain today is an alternative to the existing harmful system of X-rays that are two dimensional,” he said.

Mr. Dowling said muon tomography, or that configured as Esrai, is available for commercial use today and “is cheap, more reliable, faster running” – for example, scanning containers in trucks leaving a port terminal – in an average of 40 seconds. “It is almost 100% reliable in identifying materials including smuggling, nuclear and radiological materials and supplies associated with precursors and in conditions not detrimental to humans – for example, drivers who stay in vehicles, Customs officials, plants, animals or even electronics, with results that can be seen in three dimensions without operators, all within an auromated system.”

“Frankly speaking,” said Mr. Dowling, “this ability and applied science is transformational and ultimately will make X-rays obsolete. In fact, they are now obsolete.” Muon tomography, which is not based on X-rays, can be applied in scanning systems of various sizes and integration in existing supply chains without adding to the time scale or manual intervention. “I encourage you to investigate and ask questions about the application of muon tomography,” Mr. Dowling told the APAC members.

“The benefits of validation of the manifest at any point in the supply chain without compromising the milestones in the process, presents safe, reliable, cost effective and competitive advantages, which in ports, airports and borders, shippers and Customs not only understand but accept secure logistics. “For Panama and most of Latin America, one of the biggest challenges facing the global supply chain is the ‘integrity’ and the maintenance process that governs the rules,” he said. “In many situations or applications, the use of X-ray-based technology in reality allows illegal and illicit activity that it was originally intended to mitigate said Mr. Dowling.

He explained that X-ray scanners give two-dimensional images and do not identify what material is being scanned; only the shape and the size of the outer surfaces (not what is in it) and operators make evaluations based on a number of subjective variables. “That’s not the real Alladin’s lamp capacity value for the integrity of the supply chain. In fact, in the current environment, it really raises the risk.” In scanner systems today, X-ray technology is based on that of 40 to 50 years ago, are mechanically unreliable and therefore expensive to maintain.
They require extensive training for operators who are not permanent, due to a constant rotation of people who are ‘not trained’ and are relatively slow in operation to provide results, require significant areas of safety exclusion and emit radiation that is harmful and sometimes fatal. Terminal operators often do not use scanners for the same exact reasons – regardless of the regulatory requirement. “In Panama today and elsewhere in Latin America, many scanners at major ports are inactive. In assessing the actual costs of any segment of the global supply chain today, where such inefficiencies are imposed by X-ray scanners, there are measurable delays and accumulated cost that must be absorbed in terms of lower income and less security,” said Mr. Dowling.

“In summary, it is now unacceptable to assume that the X-ray scanners are based on value-added contributions to the integrity of the supply chain and provide real security. Given the limitations of detection of X-ray based systems, illicit traffickers today find it relatively easy to defeat the image and therefore an acceptable level of measurable risk is accepted for smuggling contraband or many forms of stealing inventory from containers loaded on ships, trucks and rail,” he concluded.

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