Cell phone to combat nuclear terrorism

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Washington, Jan 25: Terrorists may soon have a tough time plotting attacks, as researchers are working hard to develop a system where cell phones can detect radiation and prevent Nuclear Terrorism.

Researchers at Purdue University in collabortion with the state of Indiana are putting in efforts to develop a system that would use a network of cell phones to detect and track radiation to help thwart terrorist attacks with radiological 'dirty bombs' and nuclear weapons. The network of cell phones, which already have global positioning locators, can serve as a tracking system when equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach, who is working with Jere Jenkins, director of Purdue's radiation laboratories within the School of Nuclear Engineering.

Andrew Longman, a consulting instrumentation scientist developed the software for the system and then worked with Purdue researchers to integrate the software with radiation detectors and cell phones.

''Big cities with concentrated population form soft targets for potential terrorist attacks and a system like this would pose difficulties for someone to go undetected with a radiological dirty bomb in such an area,'' Longman, also a Purdue alumnus said. The more people are walking around with cell phones and Personal digital assistants (PDAs), the easier it would be to detect and catch the perpetrator, he said.

Tiny solid-state radiation sensors are commercially available.

The detection system would require additional circuitry and would not add significant bulk to portable electronic products, Fischbach said adding that the software can work with a variety of sensor types.

The system was tested last November is capable of detecting a weak radiation source 15 feet from the sensors, researchers said.

The sensors don't really perform the detection task individually, Fischbach said adding that the collective action of the sensors, combined with the software analysis, detects the source.

The system would transmit signals to a data center, and the data center would transmit information to authorities without alerting the person carrying the phone.

The signal grows weaker with increasing distance from the source, and the software is able to use the data from many cell phones to pinpoint the location of the radiation source.

The system would be sensitive enough to detect these tiny levels of radiation, but it would be smart enough to discern which sources posed potential threats and which are harmless.


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