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Cargo security checks in airports for the detection of explosives and other illegal substances are usually based on X-ray technology. While these scanners are effective for the airport cargo security checks, they can only check the shape of cargo or simply distinguish between organic and inorganic materials. 

South Korean researchers have developed a complex radiation security detector that can distinguish 16 types of substances by using X-rays and neutrons at the same time, according to

A collaboration between the state-run Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) and Orbitec will develop within five years a security scanner capable of distinguishing 16 substances, including metals, nonmetals, minerals, and organic materials.

The hybrid X-ray security scanner is based on the concept that X-rays penetrate less in heavier objects, while neutrons penetrate less in objects containing light elements such as hydrogen and carbon.

The center developed an algorithm to discern objects by calculating the degree of X-ray and neutron penetration and applied it to the hybrid X-ray security scanner.

Using six megavolt  X-rays and 14.1 mega-electronvolt neutrons at the same time, researchers were able to visualize the results of material classification by designating unique colors for each substance, making it possible to quickly read whether it is an explosive or not.