The Daily Telegraph

X-rays using AI ‘radically transform’ detection of bombs and drugs

- By Daily Telegraph Reporter

A NEW technique to detect explosives by using X-ray technology combined with artificial intelligen­ce (AI) has been invented by researcher­s at University College London (UCL).

Some explosives can be difficult to spot with a convention­al X-ray alone and the new method could revolution­ise how things such as drugs, illegal wildlife and explosives are detected.

Researcher­s say their findings may have significan­t implicatio­ns for the security sector and also have the potential to support healthcare and industry.

Senior author Professor Sandro Olivo of UCL’S medical physics and biomedical engineerin­g department), said: “This is a radically different way of inspecting materials and objects by analysing textures and allows us a new way of detecting illicit materials. The tiny bends in X-rays have always been there, but they are invisible to convention­al X-ray systems, so this allows us to access a huge amount of previously untapped informatio­n.

“So far, we have shown it works extremely well for detecting explosives, but it could be used in any applicatio­n that relies on X-rays, such as medical imaging or detecting weaknesses in industrial structures.”

In the study, the team combined a new X-ray measuring technique with AI machine learning, and tested it in a custom-developed security scanner, using some objects containing hidden explosive material.

Prof Olivo had discovered that microscopi­c changes or irregulari­ties in objects cause X-ray beams to bend as they pass through them.

The new method relies on measuring these tiny bends as the beam moves through objects of different textures. The bend occurs at angles as small as a microradia­n, which is about 20,000 times smaller than a degree. The team merged the measuremen­t of these angles, known as microradia­n scatter, with AI to identify objects and materials through their texture.

According to the study, when tested on explosives, the detection rate was 100 per cent.

Co-author Tristram Riley-smith, XPCI Technology founder, said: “This research has demonstrat­ed the potential to transform the detection of covert threats around the world, as well as such varied contraband as narcotics and illicit wildlife commoditie­s.”

Co-author David Bate said: “By training the AI on ‘perfect’ components, we predict that the technique can be used to identify defects in industrial components such as cracks, rust or gaps before they are visible to the naked eye.”

The findings are published in Nature Communicat­ions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom