New X-ray gun lets users scan their surroundings

Sophie Ho, special to

WASHINGTON — It’s the size of a breadbox, uses about 10 watts of power, and with a click of a button, can provide the user a glimpse of what organic threats like drugs and explosive chemicals lies beneath cloth, leather and even aluminum — say hello to the military’s new X-ray gun.

With a price tag of $50,000, the portable X-ray gun is called the MINI Z and supplied by American Science and Engineering.

In previous tests, the device was able to detect organic compounds such as paper, ammonia and other potentially explosive materials, and could be an asset to military personnel and the average police officer due to its portability and easy usage.

“Leveraging the breakthrough capabilities of our Z Backscatter detection technology, the MINI Z system is AS&E’s initial offering of what will be a family of portable backscatter products,” AS&E’s President and CEO Chuck Dougherty said in a news release.

AS&E primarily focuses on inspection technologies, and is the same company that distributes airport scanners. Medical X-ray machines use high-powered photons to capture images — when run through a body, these photos attach to dense areas, like bones or metal, passing through tissue to land on film to be developed.

In comparison, the MINI Z uses less powerful X-rays — its photons collide with the material and disperse, recorded by a sensor, with images appearing on a Windows-powered tablet. The gun continually generates the rays, in what AS&e vice president Joe Reiss tells Defense One is “a big factor and a big change.”

The MINI Z uses about 10 watts of power and touts its ease of use. Possible applications of the device include allowing safety officials to scan potential threats in public spaces, event security and border security checks.

“The MINI Z system is a game-changer for law enforcement and border security officials who are constantly challenged to quickly and accurately detect potential threats in hard-to-reach environments as they work to ensure the highest level of public safety,” Dougherty said.

To get an idea of how the MINI Z works, visit AS&E’s interactive website here.

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