Many recent terrorist attacks have been carried out using explosives. Preventative measures such as the early detection of explosives are therefore extremely important. In order to detect the smallest possible traces of explosives both in the gas phase and on surfaces, highly-sensitive detection techniques are necessary. To detect the smallest possible traces in the gas phase or on surfaces, detection systems based on nanoporous materials are developed, for example to concentrate explosives or hazardous substances from the gas phase, and increase the selectivity and sensitivity of detection systems.
Sensors need to be rapid and specific, to detect a variety of substances and reliably identify threats. In addition, no individual sensor can currently cover all explosives and scenarios: multiple sensors must therefore be applied. The selection of suitable detection methods and sensors for different scenarios requires a standardized test, which allows direct comparison of the performance of different systems, independent of the institution performing the tests or the place where they are carried out. Important parameters for such tests include a clearly-defined testing methodology, a pre-defined assessment and evaluation system as well as a standardized set of real testing samples.
The detection systems must be evaluated with reference to their detection limits, breadth of application, false alarm rate and suitability of use. The main goal at Fraunhofer ICT is the development of evaluation methods for detection systems, which can be used as a basis for future certification activities. Even though the performance of detection systems has improved significantly in recent years, there is still a demand for technical solutions to detect hidden explosive charges, such as those used by suicide bombers, at an early stage and from a greater distance. Initial research results are still a long way away from practical application. Global research in this sector therefore continues apace. In the heavily regulated aviation security sector, established scenario-based test routines are available to evaluate a wide range of detection systems. For other scenarios, such as security controls at large events, these test routines have not yet been developed.