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Detection of Explosives by the Gamma-Activation Method


Detection of explosives by gamma-activation method

Tech Area / Field

  • INS-DET/Detection Devices/Instrumentation
  • MAT-EXP/Explosives/Materials
  • PHY-ANU/Atomic and Nuclear Physics/Physics

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Wol'f O V

Leading Institute
VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk


  • Sandia National Laboratories, USA, NM, Albuquerque\nIsonics Corporation, USA, NJ, Closter

Project summary

Today, detection of explosives is an urgent task in the whole world. But appropriate technology intended to detect explosives independently of their location is not yet developed. All existing methods are either insufficiently sensitive, or insufficiently effective, or expensive. And very often they have combination of the above drawbacks. We believe that gamma-activation method will be an appropriate detection method. The essence of the method is: the majority of explosives consist of nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. When irradiated by high-energy bremsstrahlung (more than 15 МeV), photonuclear reactions take place in these elements. And final result of these reactions - is emission of gamma-quanta having certain energies. These gamma-quanta are registered by secondary radiation detectors and serve the basis of the gamma-activation method.

The strategic goal of this effort is creation of the acceleration-measurement facility intended to detect mines, inspect trucks, cargo containers, luggage for presence or absence of mines, and for other similar operations.

These goals are difficult to attain within one project. This project proposal has the following goals: identification of gamma-activation method capabilities (experimentally mainly), optimization of the composition of the gamma-activation facility, recommendations on its designing.

RFNC-VNIITF has everything what is necessary to reach the above goals and namely, an air-cored betatron with 70 MeV boundary energy of gamma-quanta; measurement facilities to register neutron and gamma-quanta fluxes having different energies; well-developed computation and theoretical basis, experimental site allowing investigations with explosives and acceleration-measurement facility; personnel experienced in handling various explosives and in research work.

This effort includes:

§ Computation and analytical work to validate the method proposed.
§ Analysis of betatron bremsstrahlung characteristics.
§ Analysis of nuclear reactions in elements – components of explosives under the bremsstrahlung effect.
§ Development of software and hardware for registration.
§ Experimental determination of method capabilities: determination of sensitivity; efficiency; determination of the type of explosive material, amount and form in the volume studied.
§ Preparation of the computation and analytical report describing the required parameters of the acceleration-measurement facility.
§ Preparation of the review and analytical report on the optimization of possible sources of gamma-radiation bremsstrahlung.
§ Studying potentialities of enhancing this method efficiency.
§ Analysis of results. Proposals on procedure application.
§ Recommendations on the composition and designing of the gamma-activation facility.

Other application areas.

In addition to explosives detection, this facility can be used to detect drugs. Drugs have the same components just as explosives, but in different per cent ratios. Probability of detection remains high even in the case of very thorough packing. Simultaneously with activation analysis, the facility can be used to X-ray luggage in airports on conveyers, to examine cargo-bearing containers, etc. In addition, after slight changes made to the facility, it can be used to study fast-running processes, for defectoscopy, medical purposes and other similar operations.

Meeting ISTC Goals and Objectives.

The Project provides possibilities to Russian weapon scientists and experts to redirect their capabilities to commercial activity.

Project is devoted to the area of studies and developments extremely important for all people, and namely, to counterterrorism. Therefore, Project facilitates integration of Russian scientists into international scientific community.

Area of Project studies – applied investigations in the area of explosives and nuclear physics.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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