Carleton Unveils New Scanning Device

Friday, April 26, 2013

CRIPT Device Harnesses Cosmic Rays to Detect Nuclear Material, Monitor Wastecript2

Carleton University unveiled today a large scanning device with the potential for several real-world applications, such as scanning containers for radioactive material, detecting seismic activity under volcanoes and monitoring nuclear waste tanks.

Senior Carleton researchers and students have been working for three years with the federal government and industry partners on the device, which uses cosmic ray muons. The prototype scanner built at Carleton is capable of imaging containers and providing a signal indicating the presence of high density nuclear materials such as uranium or plutonium.

The Cosmic Ray Inspection and Passive Tomography (CRIPT) system obtains three-dimensional images of a container’s content using muons – naturally-occurring, high energy rays that can pass through metres of steel. When muons pass through very dense materials like uranium, plutonium or lead, they are deflected by small amounts. CRIPT’s detectors measure these deflections very precisely.

“This system’s real innovation is in the way it handles muon detection and deflection,” said John Armitage, professor of physics and lead Carleton researcher on the project. “Our goal is to be able to scan something as large as a cargo container in less than 30 seconds.”

“Working with Professor Armitage on this project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Andrew Erlandson, a research assistant in the Department of Physics. “This is a great example of in-depth, hands-on research opportunities for students at Carleton that provide solutions to real-world problems.”

Construction on the prototype began in 2009 and was completed in September 2012. CRIPT passed its final milestone in 2013 when an air cargo container was lifted into the scanner and the electronics were switched on. Since then, CRIPT has been successfully scanning a variety of objects to test its performance.

CRIPT was developed in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada, Atomic Energy Canada Ltd, the Canada Border Services Agency, Health Canada, and two private companies: Advanced Applied Physics Solutions of Vancouver and International Safety Research of Ottawa.

The project was funded through the former Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), a federally-funded program led by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science.

The CRIPT system, with a 5.3-metre tower, and will be moving to the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in Chalk River for further experiments.

-30-

For more information:
Chris Cline
Media Relations Co-ordinator
Carleton University
613-520-2600, ext. 1391
613-355-0336
christopher_clineatcarleton [dot] ca (christopher_clineatcarleton [dot] ca)