According to Eurostat, 3.5 billion tonnes of freight were handled in EU ports in 2021. Currently, common ways to ensure that these shipments are safe and legal are X-rays and physical inspection. Physical inspection is obviously time-consuming, and while X-rays have been useful, they cannot fully penetrate most containers. Their resulting grey 2D images also leave out a lot of information about what is really inside.
Estonian startup GScan has developed the μFLUX (muon) system, a scanning technology that results in 3D images and insights about scanned objects, whether they’re commonly monitored shipping containers or even static, large-scale structures like bridges and buildings. The patented technology safely utilizes atmospheric rays to autonomously identify explosives, weapons, nuclear materials, and other objects and materials based on their density and atomic information.
The company was established in 2018 and is led by a group of experts in the fields of particle physics, nuclear physics and radiation safety, border patrol, and customs and exports.
GScan’s development is also a reflection of Estonia as a global collaboration hub for academia, industry, government, and military. The company partnered with Tartu University for its initial feasibility studies and is a Horizon 2020 grant recipient for its “SilentBorder” project, building a fully operational passive scanner for trucks and sea containers using their μFLUX system.
Seeing through walls with GScan
GScan is on a mission to reveal critical information for customs, public safety, industrial, medical, and space-based applications. Their scanners are developed to sidestep a few clear limitations to X-rays and other scanning technologies.
The big difference is what’s detected. In this case, the μFLUX system scans objects by measuring muons, naturally occurring subatomic particles. As they move through space the system detects their initial and subsequent trajectory, creating a 3D image of the scanned area. This technique also has the ability to penetrate any material, including thick concrete or steel.
The system uses the natural radiation existing around us that doesn’t require shields or exclusion zones, making it a safer alternative to X-rays. It’s completely harmless for both people and food sources, giving it a much wider application than other technologies.
Scale is another aspect of the μFLUX system that stands out. The system is designed to use modular panels that can be configured into different sizes and dimensions. For example, the system can be assembled as a stationary tunnel for vehicles to be scanned as they drive through or aimed at large infrastructures like bridges.
The system layers in a pivotal capability — autonomous identification of items and materials. The scanned item or space is represented by a 3D heatmap, which is then analysed to determine the density and materials represented in the scan. Most impressively, with the help of AI the system can autonomously identify a variety of objects and materials.
Scanning what’s on the horizon
To further develop their technology and deliver on their production orders, GScan opened a Tartu-based production facility in 2022. In addition, the technology is going to be put to the test with new projects.
Kicking off last October, the company began assessing large concrete and steel components for a wind energy company in Nordic Europe. In addition, the technology will be used to scan two decommissioned military nuclear reactors in Estonia. With even more projects in the pipeline, the team is planning to open its capabilities to new markets.
GScan is changing the way a variety of industries, including defence and security, detect the world around them. And with better detection comes better decision-making.
See GScan’s pitch at Defence59 here:
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