DARPA develops smartphone-sized radiation detection sensors


The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has developed and demonstrated a network of smartphone-sized mobile devices that can detect the tiniest traces of radioactive materials.

The pocket-sized radiation sensors have been developed under DARPA's SIGMA programme, which is aimed at creating a continuous radiation-monitoring network that is able to cover a large city or region.

During the one-month-long demonstration, the system provided more than a 100-fold increase in ability to locate and identify sources of radiation compared to currently installed systems, DARPA said in a statement.

DARPA has tested more than 100 networked SIGMA sensors as part of the demonstration at one of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s major transportation hubs.

The sensors identified sources of radiation that were non-threatening.

DARPA Defense Sciences Office programme manager Vincent Tang said: “A key feature of the SIGMA architecture is that it allows for automated, real-time detection, identification, and tracking of nuclear threats with continuous situational awareness via web-based command and control interfaces.

“We’re continuously improving the system and evaluating it in laboratory and operational settings.

"The system also demonstrated its ability to identify the location and intensity of a source and specify, in each case, the type of radiation to which it was alerting authorities."

"The user feedback and support from our Port Authority collaboration, as well as government partners such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and the UK Home Office, have been invaluable for SIGMA’s development.”

The system also demonstrated its ability to identify the location and intensity of a source and specify, in each case, the type of radiation to which it was alerting authorities.

Additionally, DARPA is developing large SIGMA prototype detectors with increased capabilities that can be deployed at fixed sites or in vehicles.


Image: The SIGMA sensors can detect tiniest traces of radioactive materials. Photo: courtesy of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.