New MRI Technology Used at Airports

As an MRI technology student, you can take your career beyond the walls of a hospital and into the air. Scientists have developed a new imaging technique that combines MRI technology with low-power x-ray data to enable more robust detection capabilities in our nation’s airports.

The project was funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, and is currently being referred to as MagRay. MagRay can detect a certain set of liquids found in homemade explosives. The imaging system can more accurately detect these liquid threats, and can indicate with high confidence whether a material is a threat or benign.

Screening liquids at an airport is difficult since traditional x-ray based baggage scanners can only do so much. Although traditional baggage scanners provide good resolution for some threats, there is limited sensitivity when it comes to liquid discrimination. The new technology can differentiate between liquids, and find the ones that fall into a certain class of explosives.

The system examines a liquid through a three-dimensional MRI while an x-ray calculates its density and proton content. By using the three different measurements, dangerous liquids are easily distinguishable.

The ultimate objective of this technology is to develop and commercialize a system that won’t require much intervention from an outside operator. Such a technology would not only introduce something new to airport security, but could also improve existing capabilities at airports.