Detection of human signatures to protect critical infrastructure (DHS)

In the project "Detection of human signatures for the protection of critical infrastructure" (DHS), human signatures are recorded in two ways and made available to the user on a screen: on the one hand by detection of person-generated heat radiation (by means of thermal cameras) and the detection of volatile compounds that are released by people through their breath or skin (e.g. isoprene, ammonia or acetone, with detection by ion mobility spectrometry). The heart of a portable search device is a thermal imager and an ion mobility sensor. Potential users are security officers, border guards or the police.

The detection of hidden people is of great importance in various areas of application: intruders in the vicinity of sensitive infrastructures or hidden people in trucks must be quickly identified in order to take suitable countermeasures.

In this project, two techniques are to be combined: detection of thermal radiation (by means of thermal cameras) and, secondly, detection of volatile compounds (by means of ion mobility spectrometry), which are released by hidden persons through the breath or through the skin. The two search techniques can in principle be miniaturized and can therefore be integrated into a portable device. The measurement results are presented on a screen after appropriate software-supported data evaluation. The two techniques complement each other ideally. The search using gas analysis corresponds to the use of detection dogs.

The basic scientific work in the field of gas analysis is carried out using relatively large research equipment. One focus here is on proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF-MS) and ion mobility spectrometry (IMS). The latter technology is currently used at airports and in the military sector for the detection of explosives or military warfare agents. The results of the basic scientific work form the basis for the detection of volatile substances by an ion mobility sensor. Small gas analysis systems are basically already available, but must be tested and validated with regard to the sampling of gas samples and with regard to the evaluation and visualization of concentration data. Preparatory work for the current project was carried out with an aspiration ion mobility sensor (AIMS) manufactured by the company Environics.

The creation of a first prototype for a portable device, in which thermal imaging cameras and an ion mobility sensor are integrated, is a considerable challenge, but is basically feasible. The thermal imager is integrated into a seeker head, which also contains a suction system for gas samples. The analytics and a screen for visualization are located near the handle. The data processing is carried out via a small laptop, which is located in a backpack-like container.

The portable prototype developed here has considerable market potential in the area of ​​securing infrastructure and could become an indispensable aid for potential users (property guards, border guards or the police).

Direktor Univ.-Prof. Doz. (ETH) Dr. Anton Amann, Institut für Atemgasanalytik der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

Mag. Mag. Mag. Marco Freek
Institut für Atemgasanalytik der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
A-6850 Dornbirn, Rathausplatz 4
Tel. 0664-80515-60000
Fax 0512-504-24683

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