May. 01, 2009

Sodern: non-invasive detection of illicit and dangerous substances

Sodern: non-invasive detection of illicit and dangerous substances. In the present-day high security environment, there is a need for a clear assessment of vulnerabilities in order to strengthen protection against terrorist threats that include explosive, chemical, radiological and nuclear attacks (NRCE). The most effective prevention against such attacks is detection and identification of the threat before it activates. To meet this challenge, Sodern develops innovative solutions based on advanced neutron technology that can assist security forces in detecting and identifying NRCE threats.

Sodern, a leading manufacturer of state-of-theart neutron tubes for several decades, has developed a cutting edge “associated particle” (API) tube, created specifically to meet the demanding requirements of homeland security. Neutron tubes have been relied on for many years in systems that use neutrons to scan materials to determine their composition.

Based upon the gamma rays produced by the interaction with neutrons, these systems accurately determine the material’s chemistry. The API tube uniquely enhances this technology by adding the capability to determine the location of where different chemistries exist within the material analyzed, a key requirement in security applications. This is possible thanks to the tube’s directional information from the associated particle detector coupled with the time-of flight measurement of the neutrons.

API makes it possible to automatically determine the hazard level and location of an unidentified object that is, for instance, deliberately concealed in a package with other material surrounding it.

Versatile Neutrons

Sodern has spent several years developing detection instrumentation products for countering dangerous or illicit materials such as explosives or narcotics concealed in baggage or buried subsurface, such as mines or chemical weapons, by using a neutron interrogation technology. This offers an important step forward beyond the security products commonly employed everywhere today, such as X-ray based devices.

This technology is highly reliable and accurate, and will help to face new threats that include liquid explosives and chemical toxins.

The company has a number of products that address specific threats. The Unattended Luggage Inspection System is a man-portable system packed in a compact case that specializes in detecting explosives, hazardous materials such as explosives, toxic chemicals or illicit materials like drugs which could be hidden in suspect luggage.

The case contains the neutron and X-Ray emission system, the gamma ray detectors, an electronics module, a high-voltage power supply and a video camera. The case is connected to a distant laptop through an ethernet cable so that the ULIS case can be placed next to the suspect object and activated from a safe distance of between 10m and 30 m. The battery-powered system is used typically by inspectors and bomb squads in airports, subways, trains, railway stations or in public areas.

By Land, Sea or Air

To discover attempts to transport materials by road, the Euritrack system consists of a complete European illicit trafficking countermeasures kit. It has been created to fortify the security of seaports and detects hidden explosives or other hazardous material in shipping containers, employing an effective non-intrusive technology.

A performance assessment of the Euritrack demonstrator is currently underway by the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission). Smuggling explosives into aircraft has been a problem for decades and is effectively countered by the INES system which employs neutron imaging for the detection of explosives in cargo holds, luggage for baggage compartments or storage rooms. Developed to strengthen airport security, its first demonstration was successfully carried out in May 2008 on real explosives, witnessed by the CEA and the DGAC (French Civil Aviation Agency).

All too often, dangerous chemicals are transported either illegally or without suitable protection. The Neutron Induced Prompt Photometer System was designed as a non-intrusive and transportable system dedicated to the detection and identification of toxic chemicals. Today, NIPPS is a product that is relied upon by the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). It features a DD neutron tube that does not contain any tritium, which simplifies transport regulatory requirements.

Sodern has been working with the DGA (French Defense Procurement Agency) in the field of landmine detection since the late 80’s. A successful field demonstration of a prototype system was completed in 2004. A second demonstrator was delivered in 2006, integrated into a dedicated vehicle specifically designed for land mine detection by Rheinmetall Landsysteme in collaboration with German BWB and French DGA for the Sydera project.

Microscopically Large Development

A 90% subsidiary of EADS Astrium, Sodern has been a source of solutions based on innovation since its inception. Two of its early technical challenges helped it acquire a solid technical base for its present-day core technologies. These were, firstly, the design of neutron sources for French strategic weapons and, secondly, the design and manufacture of some of the first sensors embedded on European satellites.

Over the years, Sodern has continued to develop and evolve its cutting edge expertise using facilities that today cover over 10,000m², more than half of which are laboratories and clean rooms. The company’s products today are found in competitive markets worldwide, with a wide range of applications ranging from extremely small neutrons to the infinitely large in outer space.

In order to maintain its leading edge and competitiveness, the approx. 300 Sodern employees are constantly advancing their innovation and technology to higher levels, while at the same time applying total quality management to their products and organizing themselves to be responsive to their customers.


Sodern France,
Limeil-Brévannes, France
Tel.: +33 145 957130
Fax: +33 145 957178

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