Enabling Revolutionary Nondestructive Inspection Capability

Reading time ( words)

X-rays and gamma rays have a wide range of applications including scanning suspicious maritime shipping containers for illicit materials, industrial inspection of materials and processes, and medical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Current technologies, however, are not ideal. X-rays produce a continuum of energies that limit their inspection and diagnostic performance, and gamma rays can only be produced at specific energies unique to a given radioactive isotope.

DARPA today announced its Gamma Ray Inspection Technology (GRIT) program. GRIT seeks novel approaches to achieve high-intensity, tunable, and narrow-bandwidth sources of gamma ray radiation in a compact, transportable form factor that would enable a wide range of national security, industrial, and medical applications. A Proposers Day webinar describing the goals of the program is scheduled for July 8, 2019.

“What we’re trying to do in GRIT is transform the use of x-rays and gamma rays,” said Mark Wrobel, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “Current sources of gamma rays, like Cobalt-60 or Cesium-137, are not very flexible. They require special licenses to possess and only emit gamma rays at very specific energies. What we desire is a source of very high-energy photons that we can tune to match the application we need. This ranges from more effective detection of illicit cargo, to a more informative medical x-ray.”

GRIT aims to provide a source of tunable, pure x-rays and gamma rays from tens of keV (kilo-electron volts) up through over ten MeV (mega-electron volts). Currently, tunable and narrow bandwidth gamma ray sources only exist at highly specialized user facilities best suited for basic research and are not able to support broad practical applications. Shrinking these photon sources to a transportable system is a major goal and challenge of the GRIT program.

GRIT technology could make possible a range of new inspection and diagnostic protocols. In medical and industrial radiography, for example, GRIT could enable revealing specific elemental and material content, such as calcium in bones or specific metals in cargo. A typical x-ray only shows differences in density in the object being inspected – whether a piece of luggage at an airport, or an individual at a doctor’s office. If successful, a GRIT x-ray source could be tuned to detect and quantify the concentration of specific elements of interest, such as the amount of calcium in a given bone x-ray, enabling radiologists to actually see bone composition.

Tuning energy between 10s of keV to over 100 hundred keV would allow detection of specific elements that might be of interest in characterizing novel materials and processes at micron scales. These techniques would be relevant to defense applications including non-destruction inspection of novel additively manufactured materials and alloys for their elemental composition.

At energy levels in the MeV range, gamma ray photons have high enough energy to actually interact with the nuclei of atoms. Whereas x-rays work by interacting with the shells of atoms, GRIT would be able to stimulate the nucleus of an atom to bring about an effect called nuclear resonance fluorescence, a sort of “fingerprint” that is unique to each isotope on the periodic table.

“With GRIT, you could probe and detect specific isotopes of interest by fine-tuning the photon energy to minimize background noise and take advantage of the nuclear resonance fluorescence phenomenon,” Wrobel said. “Those isotopes could be rare-earth elements of interest or special nuclear materials. To be able to definitively say, ‘Yes, there’s highly enriched uranium in this object’ and be able to characterize how much is present would be a significant leap forward over our current capabilities.”

DARPA is seeking expertise in a range of technologies on the GRIT program including advanced accelerator technology, high-energy laser systems, novel control systems, and new x-ray and gamma ray detector technology. To register for the GRIT Proposers Day webinar, visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmh28.

GRIT’s focus on new, compact photon sources for inspection complements DARPA’s Intense and Compact Neutron Sources (ICONS) program, which is developing compact neutron sources. The two technologies would work in tandem, yielding a very robust inspection capability.

Caption: The Gamma Ray Inspection Technology (GRIT) program seeks tunable gamma ray sources for a host of national security, industrial, and medical applications.



Suggested Items

For Climbing Robots, the Sky's the Limit

07/15/2019 | NASA
Robots can drive on the plains and craters of Mars, but what if we could explore cliffs, polar caps and other hard-to-reach places on the Red Planet and beyond? Designed by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a four-limbed robot named LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) can scale rock walls, gripping with hundreds of tiny fishhooks in each of its 16 fingers and using artificial intelligence (AI) to find its way around obstacles.

NASA Selects First Commercial Moon Landing Services for Artemis Program

06/11/2019 | NASA
NASA has selected three commercial Moon landing service providers that will deliver science and technology payloads under Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) as part of the Artemis program. Each commercial lander will carry NASA-provided payloads that will conduct science investigations and demonstrate advanced technologies on the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the lunar surface by 2024.

Telecom (Compute and Storage) Infrastructure Market to Reach $16.35B in 2022

09/03/2018 | IDC
A new forecast from IDC sizes the market for compute and storage infrastructure for Telecoms at nearly $10.81 billion in 2017. However, as Telecoms aggressively build out their infrastructure, IDC projects this market to see a healthy five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% with purchases totaling $16.35 billion in 2022.

Copyright © 2019 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.