Has the packet been properly filled? Are there impurities in the chocolate? Have the plastic seams been welded correctly? Is there a knife hidden in the parcel? Answers to all these questions are provided by SAMMI, short for Stand Alone MilliMeter wave Imager. The millimeter-wave sensor is able to see through all non-transparent materials. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR in Wachtberg have developed the device, whichat 50 centimeters wide and 32 centimeters high is no larger than a compact laser printer.
The millimeter-wave sensor can look through all non-transparent, non-metallic materials. © Fraunhofer FHR
SAMMI can happily deal with all non-metallic materials. “The system detects wooden splinters lurking in diapers, air pockets in plastic, breaks in bars of marzipan, and foreign bodies in foodstuffs. It can even detect and monitor the dehydration process in plants and how severely they have been stressed by drought,” says Dr. Helmut Essen, head of the FHR’s millimeter-wave radar and high-frequency sensors department. This makes the scanner extremely versatile – it’s just as suitable for industrial product and quality control as for analyzing materials in the laboratory. Because the system can detect dangerous substances such as explosive powder hidden in letters, vulnerable people such as politicians or freight handlers can be protected by millimeter-wave radar.
SAMMI’s most striking feature is its ability to pick out the smallest differences in materials – differences that are invisible to x-rays. SAMMI can for example differentiate between the different fillings of chocolates, or between rubber composites that have similar or identical absorption qualities. Another advantage is that the scanner doesn’t employ ionizing radiation, which can damage health. It is also low-maintenance, not requiring the regular checks necessary with x-ray tubes.
But how does SAMMI work? Inside the system’s housing, there is both a transmitting and a receiving antenna on each of two opposing rotating plates. A conveyor belt transports the sample – perhaps a package whose contents are unknown – between the antennae, while these send electromagnetic waves in a high frequency of 78 GHz. Different areas of the sample absorb the signal to different degrees, leading the varying material composition across a sample to show up in distinguishable contrast. “Basically we examine the scanned objects for dissimilarities,” explains Essen. The content of the sample appears in real time on the scanner’s fold-out display. If the package contains a knife, even the grain of the handle is discernible. If the handle is hollow, the millimeter-wave sensor would show that, too. The device scans an area of 30 x 30 centimeters in just 60 seconds.
Our system can be operated without safety precautions or safety instructions, and since it weighs just 20 kilograms it’s eminently portable. It can also be adjusted to various measuring frequencies,” the scientist points out. In future, the researchers aim to “upgrade” the system for terahertz frequencies of 2 THz. “Then we’ll be in a position not just to detect different structures but also to establish which type of plastic a product is made from. That’s not possible at the moment,” says Dr. Essen.
At present, SAMMI is only suitable for spot checks. However, the FHR researchers are working on adapting the millimeter-wave sensor for industrial assembly lines for the fast, automatic inspection of goods. They envision mounting a line of sensors over the conveyor belt, so that in future products can be scanned at a speed of up to six meters per second.
Dr. Helmut Essen | Fraunhofer Research News
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences