Dec
20
2007

Keeping a lobster eye on terrorism and other threats

Lobsters fighting terrorism: Well, it won't be quite like this, but researchers are using the principles at play in lobster eyes to develop a new X-ray technology for Homeland Security uses. It will be able to see through walls and steel structures.
Lobsters fighting terrorism: Well, it won't be quite like this, but researchers are using the principles at play in lobster eyes to develop a new X-ray technology for Homeland Security uses. It will be able to see through walls and steel structures.Courtesy Mike Wood Photography
If we ultimately end up winning the war against terrorism, we may have lobsters to thank.

Homeland Security is working with technology researchers in adapting the way that lobster eyes work into creating a new X-ray device to be used in airports, border crossings and other high risks areas.

Lobster eyes work much differently than most animal eyes. They’ve evolved to be able to see through the murky, cloudy water at the bottom of the ocean. To do that, lobster eyes are made up of thousands of tiny square channels on the end of small antennae. They gather light be reflection rather than refraction, or the bending of light, like our own eyes do.

For this new X-ray technology, scanners will use a similar geometric pattern to gather X-ray images. While not generating anything like a high definition image, the X-rays will be strong enough to see through walls, steel or other barriers to detect the shape or form of the items on the other side. It’s called LEXID (Lobster Eye X-ray Imaging Device).

Those images should be good enough for screeners to be able to see if there’s something unusual on the other side of the barrier, something that should be given close inspection. For instance, a LEXID scan could show a person hiding inside of a container, parts for making a bomb inside a suitcase or unusual cargo inside of a shipping container.

So far, about $1 million has been invested in developing the technology and developers hope to have it ready for use within a year.

Beyond national security concerns, developers of the technology think that it might prove useful in other fields like pest control, where exterminators could use it to look for varmints hiding inside of walls.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Chuckles's picture
Chuckles says:

Why don't they just train the lobsters to sniff out the bad guys? But seriously folks, why would this work any better than traditional x-rays? Will it be able to detect plastic parts any better than current airport screening machines can? Finally, where is that giant lobster located that you used to lead into the article? Roadside monumental art like that is endlessly fascinating.

posted on Sat, 12/22/2007 - 7:50am

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