TeraVid - A THz camera for Security & Border Protection Applications

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

Researchers at Cardiff University have developed a new type of security camera working at very long wavelengths, based on extremely sensitive detectors and filters originally developed for astronomy applications. A spin-out company, Sequestim Ltd, was formed to commercialise this technology for aviation and urban space security, and border protection markets.
Working with Sequestim Ltd, a prototype camera was built. This was demonstrated at Cardiff Airport as a new way to scan passengers in real time, without them having to stand still and "hold a pose". The camera was also demonstrated to border protection agencies in it's truck scanning implementation, showing the ability to scan soft-sided trucks for hidden occupants at motorway speeds.

But the prototype camera has a few impediments to commercial adoption. It has a linear array of superconducting detectors that have to be scanned over the target field in order to build up an image. The detectors need to be cooled to around 250mK, requiring an expensive cooling system based on Helium-3. There are global shortages of Helium-3, and this represents a risk to the supply chain. And the prototype scanning optics are large and unwieldy, doubling the overall size of the instrument, and have reliability issues.

This proposal addresses all of the issues with the prototype. We will develop large arrays of detectors based on a new superconducting material system working at higher temperatures. This will allow the complete removal of the expensive and risky Helium-3 system. Additionally, the large arrays will completely fill the focal plane, allowing the removal of the scanning system, and allowing much more compact and optically superior on-axis refractive optics. The removal of any scanning also vastly increases the sensitivity of the instrument, meaning that the detectors will operate at a sensitivity limited only by the statistical variations in the arrival rate of the photons that hit them.

We will integrate the new detector arrays to a new camera system to be built in collaboration with Sequestim Ltd. This camera system will represent the most sensitive, reliable and compact configuration possible, and at a reduced cost compared to the current offering from Sequestim.

Publications

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