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Abstract
Following the 2001 Anthrax letter attacks in the USA, there has been a continuing interest in techniques that can detect or identify so-called 'white powder' concealed in envelopes. Electromagnetic waves (wavelengths 100-500 μm) in the terahertz frequency range penetrate paper and have short enough wavelengths to provide good resolution images; some materials also have spectroscopic signatures in the terahertz region. We report on an experimental study into the use of terahertz imaging and spectroscopy for mail screening. Spectroscopic signatures of target powders were measured and, using a specially designed test rig, a number of imaging methods based on reflection, transmission and scattering were investigated. It was found that, contrary to some previous reports, bacterial spores do not appear to have any strong spectroscopic signatures which would enable them to be identified. Imaging techniques based on reflection imaging and scattering are ineffective in this application, due to the similarities in optical properties between powders of interest and paper. However, transmission imaging using time-of-flight of terahertz pulses was found to be a very simple and sensitive method of detecting small quantities (25 mg) of powder, even in quite thick envelopes. An initial feasibility study indicates that this method could be used as the basis of a practical mail screening system.
© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Mike Kemp "Screening mail for powders using terahertz technology", Proc. SPIE 8189, Optics and Photonics for Counterterrorism and Crime Fighting VII; Optical Materials in Defence Systems Technology VIII; and Quantum-Physics-based Information Security, 81890J (5 October 2011); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.898093
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