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Simulation Study of X-Ray Backscatter Imaging of Pressure-Plate

Improvised Explosive Devices


Johan van den Heuvel and Franco Fiore
NATO C3 Agency, Oude Waalsdorperweg 61, 2597 AK The Hague, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) triggered by pressure-plates are a serious threat in current theatres of operation.
X-ray backscatter imaging (XBI) is a potential method for detecting buried pressure-plates. Monte-Carlo simulation code
was developed in-house and has been used to study the potential of XBI for pressure-plate detection. It is shown that
pressure-plates can be detected at depths up to 7 cm with high photon energies of 350 keV with reasonable speeds of 1 to
10 km/h. However, spatial resolution is relatively low due to multiple scattering.
Keywords: CIED, pressure-plate, X-ray, Monte-Carlo, detection

1. INTRODUCTION
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the insurgents weapons of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan. IEDs are being used
to target NATO and national forces at the strategic, operational and tactical levels in theatres of operation. There have
been successes in countering these devices and the networks associated with them. However, IEDs are still a major threat
and a major cause of casualties in coalition forces.
There are many types of IEDs and they can be used in various ways. A pressure-plate IED is generally placed in the
road, usually buried to hide the IED. Note that the trigger mechanism can be separated from the explosive charge. For
the IED emplacer this gives flexibility to place the trigger mechanism (pressure plate) at its optimum position, e.g. in the
wheel tracks, while the explosive charge can be placed between the tracks or at the road side for maximum damage.
In this paper the detection of buried pressure-plates is addressed. Detection of buried pressure-plates has many
similarities with the issue of landmine detection. In section 2 a brief overview of the research in detection technologies
for humanitarian demining is given.
Section 3 presents the results of the simulation study of x-ray backscatter imaging of pressure-plate IEDs.

2. HUMANITARIAN DEMINING AND CHANGE DETECTION


There was a large international research activity on the landmine detection problem or humanitarian demining in the
1990s which culminated in the Nobel Peace prize being awarded in 1997 to two NGOs. Unfortunately, this research
effort was only partly successful and funding for humanitarian demining research has decreased considerably.[1]
However, many of the technologies that were tried in humanitarian demining can also be applied for IED detection.
The RAND report gives an excellent overview of the problem of humanitarian demining with the traditional detection
and clearance methods and the innovative technologies that were pursued at the time. [1] Around the end of the 20th
century the US was spending $100 million annually in mine clearance. In the EU there was a similar activity.[2]
The major problem in humanitarian demining is the high false alarm rate. Currently, electromagnetic induction is the
best and the preferred technology for mine detection, but this technology suffers from a high false alarm rate due to small
metal parts in the soil. For low-metal landmines, the detection threshold has to be set very low, which results in a very
large false alarm rate.
There are many similarities between landmine detection and IED detection. Not the least is that the same detection
technologies are used or are being investigated. For instance, buried IEDs are also detected by electromagnetic induction

Detection and Sensing of Mines, Explosive Objects, and Obscured Targets XVII,
edited by J. Thomas Broach, John H. Holloway Jr., Proc. of SPIE Vol. 8357, 835716
2012 SPIE CCC code: 0277-786X/12/$18 doi: 10.1117/12.918547
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using vehicles or dismounted soldier equipped with mine detectors.[3] In Table 1 technologies are listed that have been
tried in humanitarian demining and are discussed in the RAND report.
Table 1 Landmine detection technologies.[1]
Technology
Electromagnetic induction

Operating Principle
Induces electric currents in metal components of mine

Ground-penetrating radar

Reflects radio waves off mine/soil interface

Electrical impedance tomography

Determines electrical conductivity distribution

X-ray backscatter

Images buried objects with x rays

Infrared/hyperspectral

Assesses temperature, light reflectance differences

Acoustic/Seismic

Reflects sound or seismic waves off mines

Biological (dogs, bees, bacteria)

Living organisms detect explosive vapours

Fluorescent

Measures changes in polymer fluorescence in presence of explosive vapours

Electrochemical

Measures changes in polymer electrical resistance upon exposure to explosive


vapours

Piezoelectric

Measures shift in resonant frequency of various materials upon exposure to


explosive vapours

Spectroscopic

Analyzes spectral response of sample

Nuclear quadrupole resonance

Induces radio frequency pulse that causes the chemical bonds in explosives to
resonate

Neutron

Induces radiation emissions from the atomic nuclei in explosives

Advanced Prodders/ Probes

Provide feedback about nature of probed object and amount of force applied by
probe

Technologies that were investigated for landmine detection are now being considered for IED detection. Of particular
interest for this paper is the technology of X-ray backscatter imaging. Previous results from humanitarian demining give
a good indication of the ground penetration and system aspects of the technique.
The X-ray backscatter imaging technology was chosen for further analysis since it has been successful in scanning
vehicles for IEDs and is a technology that has not been extensively investigated for detection of buried objects. In the
next section previous results from humanitarian demining will be discussed and analysis and simulation results will be
presented to assess the potential of X-ray backscatter imaging.
It must be stressed that there is the potential of change detection in IED detection which is not present (or less valuable)
in humanitarian demining. Change detection is a sensor-data processing technique in which sensor data taken at different
times are being compared. Time differences are typically hours, days or weeks. Detection of IEDs is based on difference
between sensor data at the location where the IED is buried (or placed). For some technologies, the clutter that causes a
high false alarm rate has not changed during the observation period and will not show up in change detection. Note that
this false alarm rate has been a limiting factor for many detection technologies.
The attractive technique of change detection is less feasible in humanitarian landmine detection since this is done long
after the placement of the mine. Change-detection is currently investigated for camera systems mounted on road
vehicles. A similar technique could be used for the X-ray backscatter imaging that is studied in this paper. However, this
will not be presented here since it is outside the scope of this paper. This is based on the fact that clutter reduction due to
change-detection is not easily studied through simulation, because the clutter properties are not very well known.

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3. X-RAY BACKSCATTER IMAGING


3.1 Principle of X-ray backscatter imaging (XBI)
X-ray backscatter imaging has been used in the inspection of sea containers, vehicles, luggage and sometimes people.[4]
Backscatter imaging compared to the more traditional x-ray transmission imaging offers the advantage of having both
source and detection devices on one side of the target object. This is of course invaluable in the detection of buried IEDs.
Figure 1 shows the principle of X-ray imaging. An image is formed by scanning an X-ray beam in two directions, just as
in a cathode-ray tube for television. In most implementations, one scanning direction is based on a rotating chopper
wheel while the other scanning direction is due to the perpendicular movement of the object with respect to the scanner.
Size of the backscatter detector will be as large as possible, to collect as many scattered photons as possible. Note that
backscattered photons travel in all directions. The size of the transmission detector determines the field of view.

Figure 1 Principle of X-ray backscatter and transmission imaging.[4] Image is courtesy of AS&E.

For the imaging of containers, vehicles and luggage, the XBI technique gives satisfactory results. Figure 2 shows an
illustrative XBI image of a vehicle that shows suspect parcels in the vehicle. A favorable property of XBI is that
substances with a low atomic number show up very clearly while the metal container having a high atomic number has a
lower backscatter. This means that XBI is an excellent technique for inspecting vehicles that may have hidden
contraband or IEDs. For NATO operations in Afghanistan, a number of XBI systems have been installed for this
purpose.

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Figure 2 Illustrative X-ray backscatter image.[4]

3.2 Use of XBI in landmine detection


In the Rand report on landmine detection,[1] there are two papers on XBI. The first paper (appendix L) of L. Grodzins
from the company AS&E deals mostly with potential approaches to address the specific problems in detection of buried
landmines. It is more or less a research proposal for a technology demonstrator. The second paper (appendix M) of
A. Jacobs and E. Dugan from the University of Florida deals almost exclusively with research from the University of
Florida during the period 1996-2002. An interesting reference is to a 1975 US Army report on the theory of X-ray
backscatter for landmine detection.[5] Clearly, XBI has been seen as a potential solution for a long time.
In Europe there was a large research activity on Humanitarian Demining involving many national and EU projects. There
was a considerable effort in Germany by the YXLON and Philips consortium that resulted in an XBI demonstrator.[7]
EUDEM was one of the EU projects that collected information on the sensor technologies in a database.[2] This activity
has continued after the final report in 1999, but has now virtually stopped. In the EUDEM final report,[6] XBI is
mentioned on page 13:
Backscattered radiation is detected during active illumination of the ground with X-rays, and basically
determines whether or not an object is made up predominantly of light chemical elements (i.e. low atomic
number Z). The technique is intended for real-time detection of AT mines. The system is said to be able
(Thomson-CSF Detexis in France) to produce a 2D image with a resolution of some cm. Potential
problems come from shallow penetration, system complexity, sensitivity to soil topography, sensor height
variation, and safety aspects due to the use of ionising radiation. Outside Europe, research on the subject
has been carried out during the last decade in particular by the University of Florida, mostly for defence
applications. X-ray backscatter techniques are also used in geological studies.
Activity on XBI has dropped considerably as far as this can be monitored from the number of research papers. There are
still some recent papers that deal with landmine and IED detection. Some recent articles are from Canada,[8] SouthKorea,[9] USA,[10] and New Zealand[11].
The problem with XBI for landmine detection (or buried IEDs) were well summarized in the EUDEM final report:
Potential problems come from shallow penetration, system complexity, sensitivity to soil topography, sensor height
variation, and safety aspects due to the use of ionizing radiation. Results of the University of Florida in ref. [1] and [12]
illustrate these problems quite well. Ref. [12] shows XBI images for a buried anti-personnel mine at a depth of 1 inch.
However, the paper shows no results at greater depths than 2 inch. This is due to the attenuation of the X-ray beam in the
soil, which is the most fundamental problem of the technique. In the next section the theory of XBI will be treated with
emphasis on understanding the penetration depth and potential solutions.

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3.3 Theory of XBI


The theory of x-ray scattering is well established. A website with the theory and an up-to-date database of scattering
properties is maintained by NIST.[13] There are a number of scattering processes. The total cross section for all scattering
processes can be written as the sum over contributions from the principal photon interactions:

where pe is the atomic photoeffect cross section, coh and incoh are the coherent (Rayleigh) and the incoherent (Compton)
scattering cross sections, respectively, pair and trip are the cross sections for electron-positron production in the fields of
the nucleus and of the atomic electrons, respectively, and ph.n. is the photonuclear cross section.
In order to obtain a good X-ray backscatter image of a buried object, the incoherent (Compton) scattering has to
dominate and the attenuation should be sufficiently low. The attenuation coefficient is simply proportional to scattering
cross section . Now it is possible to calculate the attenuation of soil. Fortunately, the attenuation only depends on the
weight fractions of the elements not on the chemical compounds. It is only necessary to know the elemental composition
of the soil to determine the X-ray attenuation. Since the soil is mostly composed of SiO2, Al2O3, and FeO3,[14] a weight
percentage of the chemical elements can be established, see Table 2.
Table 2 General chemical composition of soil.
Chemical element

Si

Al

Fe

Mg

Ca

Na

Weight fraction (%)

46.8

27.0

8.1

5.0

0.1

4.1

4.8

2.2

1.9

With the chemical composition of the soil, the X-ray attenuation coefficients for the various photon scattering processes
in soil can be calculated using the NIST tabulated coefficients for the elements. Figure 3 shows the attenuation
coefficients as a function of photon energy. Please note that the incoherent scattering, which is the scattering used in
XBI, is dominant for photon energies between 60 keV and 15 MeV.
Soil

10

Coherent Scatter
Incoher. Scatter
Photoel. Absorb.
Nuclear Pr. Prd.
Electron Pr. Prd.
Tot. w/ Coherent
Tot. wo/ Coherent

Mass attenuation coefficient (cm2/g)

10

10

-2

10

Incoher. Scatter
-4

10

-6

10

-8

10
-3
10

-2

10

-1

10
10
Photon energy (MeV)

10

10

Figure 3 Soil attenuation coefficients for the various photon scattering processes. The incoherent (Compton) scattering is
indicated by an arrow. This scattering is dominant for photon energies between 100 keV and 10 MeV.

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For the calculation of the penetration depth, the density of the soil is required. This density can vary due to the varying
water content and particle size of the soil. In general soil density is between 1.1 and 1.6 g/cm3, which is between
1.0 g/cm3 of water and 2.65 g/cm3 of solid quartz.[15] For the photon energy, the information in the paper of ref. [12] is
used. Herein, an X-ray tube voltage of 160 kVp is used, which gives a maximum photon energy of 160 keV. However,
an X-ray tube gives a continuous spectrum and it is more realistic to use an effective value of 100 keV for the photon
energy.[16] Using the mass attenuation coefficient of 0.18 cm2/g, which is given by Figure 3 at 100 keV with the soil
density of 1.5 g/cm3, an attenuation of 0.27 cm-1 is obtained. Thus, the penetration depth, which is the reciprocal of the
attenuation, is 3.7 cm. This is in agreement with the results of,[12] which show mine detections up to 5 cm (2 inches).
In order to increase the penetration depth, the photon energy can be increased. For instance, at a photon energy of
400 keV, the attenuation coefficient is decreased by a factor two, thus increasing the penetration depth by the same
factor. However, the backward scattered energy is considerably reduced at high photon energies. According to the KleinNishina function, the relative amount of backward scattered energy falls off with increasing photon energy.[17] The
Klein-Nishina function gives the differential cross section of X-ray incoherent scattering:

where E is the incident photon of energy, is the fine structure constant, is the scattering angle, rc is the Compton
radius of the electron, and P(E,) is the ratio of photon energy after and before the collision:

Figure 4 shows this effect by plotting the differential scattering cross section as a function of scattering angle in a radial
plot (the left side is the back side). The cross section for backward scattering is much lower than for forward scattering
and this effect is more pronounced at 400 keV than at 100 keV.
Differential scattering cross section
90

8e-030

120

60
6e-030

150

4e-030

30

2e-030

180

330

210

300

240
270

Figure 4 Klein-Nishima scattering function for 100 keV (solid blue) and 400 keV (dashed red).

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A way around this problem is to use different sensor geometries as was discussed in the AS&E paper in the Rand
report.[1] For instance, by moving the source and the detector apart, it is possible to use forward scattering. Another
sensor geometry technique is the use of collimators. Collimators have also been used by the University of Florida.[12]
These devices can increase the sensitivity at greater depth by reducing the detection of scattered photons at the surface
and at low depths.
Another limitation of XBI for buried landmines has been the slow speed of the technique. A required scan time of 30 s
for a 50 cm x 50 cm area is reported in ref. [12]. The company AS&E states in Appendix L of ref. [1] that a square meter
per minute is possible. In ref. [4] a much higher scan speed is mentioned, namely between 1 and 10 km/h for scan widths
of a few meters, though this is for vehicle scanning. The scan speed is given by

VS =

Ap
WS t p

where Ap is the pixel area, WS is the scan width, and tp is the time per pixel.
Now the scan speed can be calculated from the XBI parameters. According to the thesis of Z. Su from the University of
Florida (on page 31),[18] around 10000 photons per pixel are needed. For a photon energy of 100 keV, this amounts to an
X-ray energy per pixel of 1.6x10-10 J. The energy per pixel is related to the XBI parameter by

E p = PS

Ap
2R 2

tp

where PS is the X-ray power of the tube, and R is the range from source to object. If the parameters from ref. [4] are
used: an X-ray power PS of 100 W, a pixel area Ap of 4 mm2, a range R of 1.5 m, and the energy per pixel given above,
then a time per pixel of 5.7 s is found. This leads to a scan speed of 0.6 km/h for a scan width WS of 4 m. This is
compatible with the range 1-10 km/h mentioned in ref. [4]. Note that higher speed can be achieved by reducing the
resolution, increasing the X-ray power, or reducing the energy per pixel.
Note that in the mentioned literature much lower scan speeds have been used in buried landmine detection. These speeds
of 1 m per minute are at least an order of magnitude lower that the speed claimed for the commercial vehicle scanners.[4]
Most likely, this has to do with the difficulty of achieving sufficient ground penetration, but system maturity will also be
a factor.
3.4 Simulation of XBI
The simulation of X-ray backscatter imaging will be based on the geometry of Figure 5. Here an X-ray enters the ground
under a certain angle and scattered photons will be detected by the detector. Note that the collimator will absorb most
photons that are scattered at the surface. In this way the relative amount of deeply scattered photons will be increased.

Figure 5 Lay-out of the detection geometry used in the simulation.

Matlab, a general purpose scientific programming and computation program, was used to simulate the X-ray backscatter
process. The simulation method is a Monte Carlo calculation of the photon trajectory and scattering. The computer code

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was developed in-house. As in the section above, about 10000 photons are used in the simulation per pixel. These
photons are scattered with a probability given by the scatter coefficient under an angle given by the Klein-Nishina
function. A random generator is used to decide whether a photon is scattered and under which angle.
First, we simulate the XBI of soil without any buried object for the same conditions that were treated in the previous
section, i.e. a photon energy of 100 keV and a soil density of 1.5 g/cm3. Figure 6 shows the scattered photons as points in
two projections of the 3D-geometry. The x-ray beam was aimed at an angle of 45 deg. With a detector size of
0.5 x 1.0 m, about 160 photons are detected by the detector with some variation due to the random nature of the
scattering. Note that this is about 1.6% of the incident photons. Without the collimator, which is along the entire width of
detector and extends from 20 cm to 10 cm above ground level, the number of detected photons is 420.
Geometry / projection Z-axis

Geometry / projection X-axis

1.5

1.5
propagating
detected
absorbed

1
Height above ground (m)

Height above ground (m)

detector

0.5

collimator

propagating
detected
absorbed

surface

-0.5

0.5

-0.5
x-ray beam

-1
-1.5

-1

-0.5
0
0.5
Horizontal separation (m)

-1
-1.5

1.5

-1

-0.5

0
Width (m)

0.5

1.5

Figure 6 Scattered photons at 100 keV. Blue, green, and red dots show propagating, detected, and absorbed photons,
respectively.

Figure 7 shows how deep the detected photons have penetrated the soil. It is clear that most photons come from shallow
depths. The penetration depth is about 5 cm in correspondence with the previous calculation of the attenuation
coefficient. In order to achieve a higher penetration depth we will use a higher photon energy.
Detected photons versus scattering depth
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5
0.6
Depth (m)

0.7

0.8

0.9

Figure 7 Depth of scattering at a photon energy of 100 keV.

The next simulation is with a photon energy of 350 keV in the expectation to reach a higher penetration depth. Figure 8
shows the scattered photons as points in two projections of the 3D-geometry. Note that at the end of the simulation, there
are still propagating photons in the soil. This is due to the low photo-electric absorption at 350 keV. At this photon

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energy, there is almost only incoherent scattering. This causes a deeper penetration of the soil. Figure 9 show the
maximum depth the photons have reached after being scattered back to the detector. The penetration depth is now almost
20 cm. There are also detected photons that have reached depths beyond 30 cm. It is also noteworthy that the number of
detected photons have increased to about 460 compared to the 160 at 100 keV.
Geometry / projection Z-axis

Geometry / projection X-axis

1.5

1.5
propagating
detected
absorbed

1
Height above ground (m)

Height above ground (m)

detector

0.5

collimator

propagating
detected
absorbed

surface

-0.5

0.5

-0.5
x-ray beam

-1
-1.5

-1

-0.5
0
0.5
Horizontal separation (m)

-1
-1.5

1.5

-1

-0.5

0
Width (m)

0.5

1.5

Figure 8 Scattered photons at 350 keV. Blue, green, and red dots show propagating, detected, and absorbed photons,
respectively.
Detected photons versus scattering depth
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5
0.6
Depth (m)

0.7

0.8

0.9

Figure 9 Depth of scattering at a photon energy of 350 keV.

It has been mentioned in the literature[1] that multiple scattering increases and becomes dominant at higher photon
energies. Figure 10 shows the number of scatter events that detected photons have experienced before being detected. In
the histogram for a photon energy of 100 keV the single scatter event is still the most likely event (70 photons), though
multiple scattering amounts to half of the events. For a photon energy of 350 keV, multiple scattering is even more
important and the number scatter events has increased considerably. The complication of multiple scattering is that the
detected photon does not have to come directly from the material in the beam. The photon can be scattered outside the
beam and have a second (or more) scatter event before being detected. The horizontal resolution will suffer considerably
due to this effect.

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Multiple scattering of detected photons

Multiple scattering of detected photons

80

90

70

80
70

60

60

50

50
40
40
30
30
20

20

10
0
-5

10

5
10
15
Number of scatter events per photon

20

25

0
-5

5
10
15
Number of scatter events per photon

20

25

Figure 10 Multiply scattering at 100 keV (left) and at 350 keV (right).

Since the increase of photon energy from 100 keV to 350 keV showed a considerably increase in penetration depth, it is
worthwhile to consider an even larger photon energy. Figure 11 shows the simulation results for a photon energy of
1 MeV. The results are similar to those at 350 MeV. The number of detected photons is a little higher at around 600.
Unfortunately, the penetration depth is only slightly higher for 1 MeV. An explanation for this small increase is the
reduction of the photon energy by backward scattering. As was expressed by the Klein-Nishina function, the scattered
photon looses energy that depends on the scattering angle. Figure 12 shows that the photon energy at the detector is
predominantly much lower that the initial photon energy of 1 MeV. This means that the advantage of a high initial
photon energy is diminished in the multi-scatter situation that we have here.
Geometry / projection Z-axis

Detected photons versus scattering depth

1.5

80
propagating
detected
absorbed

70

Height above ground (m)

60
50

detector

0.5

40
0

collimator

surface

30
20

-0.5
x-ray beam

-1
-1.5

-1

-0.5
0
0.5
Horizontal separation (m)

10

1.5

0.1

0.2

0.3

Figure 11 Simulation results for a photon energy of 1 MeV.

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0.4

0.5
0.6
Depth (m)

0.7

0.8

0.9

Photon energy of detected photons


350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4
0.5
0.6
Photon energy (MeV)

0.7

0.8

0.9

Figure 12 Photon energy at detector showing the loss of energy due to scattering.

Since the effect of a 1 MeV photon energy is very low, the following simulations will deal with a photon energy of
350 keV. Note that 1 MeV sources are much harder technologically as well. In practice, the initial photon energies will
follow an energy distribution instead of a single value. However, this will be not be taken into account here.
3.5 Pressure-plate Simulation
For the pressure-plate simulation, a pressure plate will be simulated by a cavity. Since the pressure plate is of low density
material (mostly wood) with an air gap this is a good approximation. This cavity will be in the form of a single layer with
5 cm thickness or the cavity will have a size of 20 x 20 x 5 cm, with a thickness of 5 cm.
Table 3 shows the number of detected photons as a function of the cavity-layer depth in the columns on the left. Photon
energies are 350 keV for all simulations. Note that in this simulation a whole layer is used to simulate the pressure plate.
In another simulation the finite size of the plate was taken into account. This is shown in the table by the columns on the
right with a light grey background. All values were obtained by running the simulation 20 times with 10000 photons per
run. In this way the mean and the standard deviation of the number of detected photons was found. The table shows that
the number of detected photons increases with shallower depth of the cavity. However, it will be hard to detect pressureplates buried deeper than 10 cm, since the number of detected photons is almost the same as without a cavity.
Table 3 Mean number and standard deviation of detected photons versus depth of cavity layer.
Cavity of 20x20x5 cm

Single cavity layer


Layer depth (cm)

Standard deviation

None

Mean number
detected photons
461

Mean number
detected photons

Standard deviation

20

456

19

466

23

15
12

460

20

461

23

470

22

475

26

20

10

470

22

474

23

502

23

508

29

562

20

534

18

634

22

596

30

712

21

646

22

777

23

704

27

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Figure 13 shows simulated X-ray images for various pressure-plate depths. The color scale is the same for all images and
is chosen to see the noise in the image as well. Note that the signal is saturated for a shallow buried pressure plate (left
image). These images correspond to a system with a scanning X-ray beam mounted on a driving vehicle. The X-ray
beam is scanned in one direction while the vehicle drives in the other direction. It can be noticed from the figure that it is
very hard to distinguish a pressure-plate buried at 10 cm depth from the background. Another striking feature is that
there is not a strict cut-off at the edges of the pressure-plate. This is due to the multi-scatter problem at these high photon
energies. On the other hand this also means that the sampling can be coarse, which will result in a higher detection speed
or driving speed.
Depth 2 cm

Depth 1 cm

Depth 3 cm

Depth 5 cm

Depth 7 cm

Depth 10 cm
550

-0.4
540

-0.3

530

-0.2

520

Distance (m)

-0.1

510

0.1

500

0.2

490

0.3

480

0.4

470

0.5

460

0.6
-0.1

0
Width (m)

0.1

-0.1

0
Width (m)

0.1

-0.1

0
Width (m)

0.1

-0.1

0
Width (m)

0.1

-0.1

0
Width (m)

0.1

-0.1

0
Width (m)

450

0.1

Figure 13 Simulated X-ray backscatter images of a scanning beam mounted on a moving platform. Images have a pressure
plate in the centre buried at depths of 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10 cm.

The trajectories of the detected photons from impact at the origin to detection at the detector surface are shown in Figure
14. This simulation was done without a cavity to show the inherent scattering of the soil. Scatter events are indicated by
a dot on the trajectory. It is clear from the trajectories that the photons have a wide distribution in the soil which results
in a reduced imaging resolution.
Trajectory of detected photons

Multiple scattering of detected photons


10
0.15

Height above ground (m)

0.1

0.05

6
-0.05

-0.1

-0.15

-0.2

-0.25
0.4

1
0.2
0
-0.2
Wid
th (m

-0.4
)

-0.4

-0.3

-0.2

-0.1

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0
-5

5
10
15
Number of scatter events per photon

20

Horizontal separation (m)

Figure 14 Photon trajectories showing multiple scattering with a spiral indicating the origin and surface. Left figure shows
the histogram of scatter events of the 48 detected photons.

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25

3.6 Pressuree-plate simulaation by AS&


&E
In the first half
h of the yeear 2011 the company
c
AS&
&E (Americaan Science annd Engineerinng) performing
g independennt
computer sim
mulations afterr discussions with
w NC3A annd reading thee NC3A resultts reported aboove.
Figure 15 shoows the results from AS&E
E for a two-incch thick cavity
y buried at a depth
d
of two innches. These conditions aree
similar to thee NC3A simuulations show
wn in Figure 13.
1 Note that the results of
o the two sim
mulations agreee rather welll
showing a reeduced contrasst at 5 cm deepth, which seeems to be ab
bout the maxiimum depth thhat a pressuree plate can bee
detected.

Figure 15 Backscatter im
mages using a 350
3 kV X-ray soource and an an
ngle of incidencce of 45 degree.. Collimation was
w used to
exclude sccatter from the first inch of soiil.

It is interestinng that AS&E


E also simulatted X-ray imaages from buried wood sincce many presssure plates co
onsist of an airr
gap between two wooden plates.
p
Figure 16 shows that a wooden pllate is more diifficult to deteect than a caviity of the samee
size. Howeveer, the woodenn plate still shhows some coontrast in the image at a deepth of two innches. Note th
hat the photonn
energies are also
a reduced, giving
g
less peenetration, sincce the X-ray source
s
was herre operated att 225 kV.

Figure 16 Backscatter im
mages using a 225
2 kV X-ray soource and an an
ngle of incidencce of 45 degree.. Collimation was
w used to
exclude sccatter from the first inch of soiil.

Even though the simulatedd X-ray imagges of AS&E and NC3A ag


gree in a quallitative way, tthere are diffferences in thee
simulation models.
m
In genneral, the sim
mulations of NC3A
N
are mo
ore simplifiedd compared too those of AS
S&E. Table 4
summarized these
t
differencces.

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Table 4 Differences in the simulations of AS&E and NC3A.


AS&E simulation
photoelectric absorption, Compton scatter, Rayleigh scatter,
pair production
6mm x 6mm image pixels
X-ray Bremstrahlung spectra generated with Be window
tubes at 225 and 350kV end-point energies
25.000 or 100.000 photons in incident beam per image pixel

NC3A simulation
photoelectric absorption, Compton scatter
pencil beam, sampling 5 cm
Monochromatic photons of 350 keV
10.000 photons in incident beam per image pixel

The agreement of the AS&E and the NC3A simulations using different computer models and done independently give
confidence that the simulated results will agree with actual performance in the field. The biggest drawback of the
technique seems to be the limited penetration depth, which will restrict its detection potential to shallow buried pressureplates. Maximum detection depth of the pressure-plate seems to be around 5 cm.

4. CONCLUSIONS
A Monte Carlo simulation study was performed on the problem of pressure-plate detection with X-ray backscatter
imaging. The model was validated using results from previous landmine detection trials. Though only a superficial
comparison could be made with the experiments, the model is believed to be accurate enough. Here, it has to be realized
that X-ray scattering has a well established theory which is also relatively simple with accurate physical parameters.
Simulated results of X-ray backscatter images from a buried pressure plate show that there is enough contrast for
detection at 5 cm but not at 10 cm depth. The resolution of these images is quite low due to the multiple scattering at
350 keV. For pressure-plate detection, this is not a big drawback since these devices are relatively large. It also means
that the scanning can be quite fast since the resolution doesnt have to be very high. Increasing the photon energy does
not improve the soil penetration due to the reduction of photon energy after scattering.
X-ray backscatter imaging seems to be a viable technique for detection of pressure-plates that are not buried too deep,
i.e. around 5 cm. Scanning speeds will be in the wide range of 1 to 10 km/h mentioned in ref. [4]. Note that somewhat
higher speeds may be achieved here since the intrinsic resolution is lower due to multiple scattering.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors had great benefit of the discussions with Joe Callerame and Peter Rothschild of American Science and
Engineering (AS&E) and acknowledge the use of images from them. In addition, the authors thank AS&E for the
follow-on experiments that cannot be reported here due to classification reasons.

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