Science and Technology

University’s ground-breaking explosive detection technology

Explosive testing technology developed by the University of Tasmania could be rolled out at airports around the world to keep passengers safe.

US company RapiScan, whose technology is used to conduct random explosives testing at airports globally, is visiting Grey Innovation in Melbourne and the University of Tasmania in Hobart to review the technology.

The visit comes after the technology was trialled in an Australian international airport, tested by European Union agencies and presented at the European Civil Aviation Conference.

GreyScan was initially developed by the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS) based at the University of Tasmania.

The technology was invented by Professor Michael Breadmore and his team from the University’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology with funding from agencies including the National Security Science and Technology Centre and the US Department of Homeland Security.

“Cracking the problem around separating and identifying inorganic molecules was the breakthrough we needed to create the technologies,” Professor Breadmore said.

“Now we can detect trace levels of inorganic explosives on people, shoes and other items in a few minutes.”

In 2014, the University of Tasmania licensed the technology to the Melbourne-based technology commercialisation firm Grey Innovation, who have taken the technology to market. It has now attracted the interest of the global major players in the screening and security space.

Grey Innovation was the industry partner in the initial development of the proof-of-concept demonstrator.

The technology was developed in collaboration with Australian forensic and policing authorities to detect homemade explosives, such as those used in London, Madrid, Bali, and Boston.

The technology is the first instrumentation in the world to detect homemade inorganic explosives, overcoming the limitation of existing screening techniques that struggle to detect modern explosives.

Incorporating these technologies into commercial grade units, and ensuring that those machines can be relied on for such critical information, is the role being taken on by Grey Innovation.

Grey Innovation’s Managing Director, Jefferson Harcourt, said as the licensee and co-developer, Grey Innovation would move the technology from the lab to the market place.

“The ability to detect a wide range of modern high explosives with this level of sensitivity, and to do it quickly, is a huge step forward in terms of counterterrorism technologies,” Mr Harcourt said.

“Instrumentation in this space has to stand up to significant regulatory scrutiny, needs to be dependable, and has to be cost effective. Initial discussions with potential partners have already commenced.”

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