Aspiration and Trace Explosives, Narcotics/Radiation Detection in Air and Marine Cargo Containers


There are millions of cargo containers transported every day through airports, seaports and border crossing. The sheer volume and lengthy manual inspections of these containers is not feasible and has the potential to severely impact the flow of commerce. Imaging technologies like X-ray suffers from high false alarms and requires a complimentary tool like trace chemical detection (TCD), as has been implemented at airports for screening passengers and their carry-on luggage.

Teknoscan developed aspiration and trace chemical detector which allows collection and detection of traces of explosives, narcotics, human trafficking, chemical biomarkers and contraband items like tobacco, firearms, ammunition and hazardous materials.

More recently TSI introduced a hand-held radiation monitor to measure radiation levels on sample card used to collect the airborne and vapors from inside the container or other types of enclosures. The approach excludes radiation contamination from outside the container and indicate radioactive materials presence inside the enclosure.

Sample acquisition involves magnetic attachment of a latch on the air vent of a marine container (20’ or 40’) and aspirating over a third of the air contents from inside the container. Any airborne and vapors are collected and concentrated on the sample card. The card is then processed in the detection system which is deployed at the site or in a transport vehicle.

The detection system TSI-3000 is programmed to detect all types of explosives, military, industrial, home-made explosives, ammunitions and firearms. In addition, the instrument detects illicit drugs and their precursors as well as diluents that are used to cut the drug. Precursors are starting materials for making the drug and these are also programmed under the drug precursor method.

Figure 1 shows typical sampling of a marine container through its vents or through the door gasket if the vent is found to be blocked from inside. The high volume sampler pulls the air from inside the container at a thousand liters per minutes for several minutes. The internal volume of the container can be agitated by blowing air jets or the air is disturbed by driving the container over floor bumps or the lifting and ascending of the container from a ship. Similarly, the air is agitated by blowing the return flow of the high volume sampler under air cargo unit as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1                                                               Figure 2

Figure1Figure 2 Headline660x400

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Dr. Sabatino Nacson has been in the security market since 1978, with many years experience in developing advanced detection solutions based on trace chemical detections deployed in a number of commercial inspection technologies used today at airports and by security agencies around the world. Dr. Nacson is a founder of Teknoscan Systems Inc. in 2008 followed by commercialization of aspiration and trace chemical detection products. Dr. Nacson is well known in the industry with international publications and expertise in explosives, narcotics and other threat substances sampling and detection.


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