A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Varian Medical Systems (Palo Alto, California) reported that it has developed a type of X-ray linear accelerator that enables cargo-screening systems to automatically alert operators if suspicious materials are detected. The Varian Linatron K9 accelerator makes it possible, it said, "for the first time, "to build cargo screening systems that can scan containers and analyze images to determine the nature of the contents."

Lester Boeh, vice president for Varian's Security & Inspection Products business, termed the Linatron K9 "a major milestone in the effort to develop fast, accurate and automated cargo-screening systems that can improve homeland security without impeding the flow of commerce."

He said that the technology "has the capacity to take us beyond what you can conventionally see with X-rays, making it possible to identify special nuclear materials as well as view container contents."

Inspection systems built around the Linatron K9 would scan fully loaded cargo containers and then use specialized image-analysis software to analyze the resulting X-ray images for quick identification of dangerous materials.

Varian said it would supply the Linatron K9 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators, who build cargo-screening vehicles and facilities for the world's seaports and airports and will introduce it at the upcoming Air and Port Security Expo in Brussels, Belgium, June 22-23.

"The high-energy X-rays from the Linatron K9 can penetrate 17 inches of solid steel to generate fast, high-resolution images," Boeh said. "We believe it can screen a fully-loaded container faster than any other non-intrusive inspection system available in the world."

The Linatron K9 emits X-rays in a pattern that alternates between two energy levels more than 400 times per second. By analyzing the X-rays that emerge when a cargo container is scanned, systems equipped with the Linatron K9 can generate information about high-density objects and nuclear materials in cargo containers.

Varian said that the Linatron K9 cargo-screening technology could improve security "significantly" in the U.S., as some 8 million cargo containers enter the country annually through more than 360 seaports.

The intellectual property behind the K9 technology is an extension of Varian's Linatron accelerator for non-destructive testing (NDT) and cargo-screening applications.

Varian is a manufacturer of integrated cancer therapy systems and a major supplier of X-ray tubes and flat-panel digital subsystems for imaging in medical, scientific and industrial applications.