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ScantexTM, created at the University of Tasmania’s (UTAS) Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS), has shown the potential to detect inorganic explosives within 60 seconds, saving critical time at airports and other mass transit venues where security is a major concern.

With substantial investment from a commercial partner, the high-speed, precision screening technology providing greater security at airports around the world in less than five years.

The University’s research commercialisation partner, UniQuest Pty Limited, is working with the ACROSS team to find a commercial partner and to prepare the Scantex technology for a global launch.

Inorganic compounds are common ingredients in Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), such as the bombs and booby traps used by terrorists to cause personal harm and property damage. Examples include chemicals such as ammonium nitrate (used in fertilizers), and potassium chlorate and potassium perchlorate.

Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development, Dr Robin Fieldhouse, said Scantex aims to do what no current screening of explosives in mass transit applications can: detect, analyse and identify inorganic explosives in around one minute.

“Other instrumental techniques such as Ion Chromatography take longer to achieve the same level of effectiveness and they are geared towards detecting  organic high explosives like TNT and C4 or Semtex,” Dr Fieldhouse explained.

 “Scantex’s novel features would enhance the currently available technologies. With more than 55 million passengers a year passing through London’s Heathrow airport alone, and air travel around the world continuing to increase, demand for rapid and reliable high-tech security remains high.

“The Scantex technology offers a strong competitive edge to players in this market, which is a growth industry in itself and worth about $4 billion. Then there’s the major public events market, which also faces huge security challenges.”

Australian and US governments have put their support into the project with research grants totalling $3.5 million over the past seven years.

The Scantex technology was a key outcome of an Australian Research Council Linkage project running from 2006 to 2009, involving ACROSS and seven key partners: the Australian Federal Police, Tasmania Police, Victoria Police, the National Institute for Forensic Science, Dionex Australia Pty Ltd, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Forensic Science South Australia, and the Federal Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Multiple inventive aspects of the Scantex technology are the subject of a provisional patent application, creating a strong base for potential business partners to benefit from licensing and co-development arrangements.

“The ACROSS team is working with UniQuest on a number of innovations that have enormous commercial potential, but this is perhaps the one with the best prospects right now for benefitting millions of people every year around the world.

“With the right venture partner, this technology could be in use before the next FIFA World Cup,” Dr Fieldhouse said.

Potential investors, licensee or manufacturing partners should contact Dr Fieldhouse for more information:r.fieldhouse@uniquest.com.au.

Further information about the research is available on the UTAS website:http://www.staff.utas.edu.au/news/articles/major-advance-in-bomb-detection-by-utas-team

Image caption: UTAS ACROSS researchers (L-R) Associate Professor Michael Breadmore, Mr Yi Heng (Ryan) Nai and Associate Professor Greg Dicinoski.

Image credit: UTAS Peter Mathew.