Hazardous threat detection

Paul Boughton

Tony Gerillo reports on how the latest high-voltage converters are being put to use in a range of applications and are finding many fans in high-risk areas, where they are used to detect potential hazards.

High-voltage DC power supplies are actually DC to high voltage DC converters. They convert low voltage (usually 5 to 24 V DC) to voltages of 100 V to tens of thousands of volts. Now, one expert in the sector has taken the standard brick high-voltage power supplies, which are large (approximately 3in x 3in x 5in), open-architecture units, and miniaturised them for modern applications.

EMCO High Voltage’s newest product, the CB Series, is used in many applications, but the modules are particularly suited for portable and handheld hazardous threat detection devices.

Early high-voltage threat detection applications for miniature DC converters started with chemical and gas detection. These portable and desktop mass spectrometers use laser excitation to provide both fluorescent and spatially offset Raman technology to spectrally analyse various compounds and elements within solids, liquids and gases. These applications are used by law enforcement, customs, port of entry, military and other government agencies. 

Miniature high-voltage converters can be used to power x-ray tubes for XRF/XRD (x-ray fluorescence/x-ray diffraction) analysis. XRF/XRD measures the level of elements such as lead (Pb) in solids. XRF/XRD is also employed in non-hazardous applications, such as measuring the thickness of elemental coatings and determining how much uranium is contained in surface strata during mining operations.

Recent developments in materials utilised in radiation detection arrays enable non-cryogenically cooled instruments to move to ambient temperature portable devices. High voltage is used to bias the circuit to the optimal condition for taking x-ray, gamma ray and neutron level measurements. 

Early warning devices

In the USA, the Department of Energy is developing personnel devices for use in high-risk areas, such as military conflict zones, border crossings and nuclear facilities. These early warning devices are small, battery-powered packages that are typically mounted on a belt or backpack. Several private-sector manufacturing companies have already developed similar devices. 

DC to high-voltage DC converters are used in many applications beyond hazardous threat detection. They can be found in photomultiplier tubes, electrophoresis scintillators, electrostatic precipitators, photodiodes, high power lasers, piezo devices and igniters.

For more information visit www.engineerlive.com/ede

Tony Gerillo is an applications manager at EMCO High Voltage.