Published: 12 July 2016

Student files patent for anti-terror device

A Surrey Physics undergraduate has developed a new collimation device for explosives scanners and is now named on the patent application to protect his invention.

Morgan Carpenter designed the device while on Professional Training placement at Dstl, the UK government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Developed for the security sector, it is a new type of collimator (a device that narrows down an x-ray beam) which enables x-ray backscatter scanners used in airports, stations and other public places to recognise explosive devices in baggages.

Working in the High Energy Techniques team within Dstl’s Counter Terrorism and Security Division, Morgan was asked to investigate novel collimation techniques that could be used to enhance the scanning equipment already designed by the team. Morgan developed and refined an initial idea, coming up with a spheroid beam manipulator which calculations suggest is more robust, lighter weight and more energy efficient than existing technology used in these scanners. While the device is primarily aimed at the security sector, it also has potential applications in the field of medical diagnosis.

A UK patent application – which includes Morgan as a named applicant – has been filed for the technology, and the device is now being marketed to industry through Ploughshare Innovations.

Morgan says, “I worked on the device largely on my own, taking over the project after some basic literature reviews and early investigation had been done. It was challenging to say the least: I had to learn a new coding language and CAD software in order to create the model and then 3-D print it. There were also security and confidentiality issues to overcome. Being able to develop a new piece of technology and follow it through the patent process has been a fantastic opportunity for me.”

Senior Tutor for Professional Training Professor Joseph Keddie of the Department of Physics comments, “During the year Morgan spent at Dstl he demonstrated a high level of creativity and ingenuity in designing and developing the new collimator device. He obviously impressed his colleagues and definitely made the most of his Professional Training experience, which included spending time conducting experiments using sophisticated laser sources at the world-class facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.”

In recognition of his exceptional achievements during his Professional Training placement, Morgan was named the FEPS (Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences) Professional Training Student of the Year, and was runner-up for the overall University award. Having completed his degree in Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics, he is now undertaking a PhD in modelling for high-power wireless telecommunications at Surrey.

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