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ALERT Research Highlights March 31, 2017

March 31, 2017

ALERT Thrust R3 Project Investigators, Dr. Carey Rappaport and Dr. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University were awarded a patent for “Signal Processing Methods and Systems for Explosives Detection and Identification Using Electromagnetic Radiation” (U.S. Patent 9,575,045) on February 21, 2017. This patent is for an algorithm designed to rule out non-explosive concealed foreign objects concealed under clothing and affixed to the skin, reducing the number of false alarms, and thus, the number of pat-downs needed, leading to greater accuracy in threat detection and shorter security lines. The improved reliability would benefit many: passengers, airlines, and the Transportation Security Administration; and possibly lead to the expansion of AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners into everyday use, such as railway stations, sporting venues, and other soft targets. Read more about their research here.

Dr. Rappaport was recently selected by the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society (AP-S) as a Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019. The IEEE AP-S Distinguished Lecturer Program sends experts, the Distinguished Lecturers, to visit active AP-S Chapters around the world and give talks on topics of interest and importance to the Antennas and Propagation community. Read more here.

Dr. Martinez-Lorenzo was recently awarded a $500K National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his work on developing a method for “4D mm-Wave Compressive Sensing and Imaging at One Thousand Volumetric Frames per Second.” Millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems are generally used for a wide range of applications, such as security monitoring to detect potential threats at the airport and biological imaging for wound diagnosis and healing. Because this is the first four-dimensional millimeter-wave imaging system that can operate in quick-changing scenarios, it will benefit society greatly. Read more about how Dr. Martinez plans to use this award here.

ALERT Thrust R2 Project Investigator, Dr. Steve Beaudoin of Purdue University was recently awarded “Best Presentation” in his session for a paper he presented on at the Annual AlChE Meeting in November 2016. The paper was based on his research project that was recently selected as a new ALERT project. The new project, titled “A Novel Method for Evaluating the Adhesion of Explosives Residue,” aims to provide insight into the reasons why explosives residues stick to surfaces and what must be done to effectively detect those residues in air transportation security environments. Read more about Dr. Beaudoin’s research here.

Prof. Rappaport and Prof. Martinez-Lorenzo Present ALERT Research at EuCAP 2017 March 24, 2017

Dr. Carey Rappaport and Dr. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University presented ALERT-related research at the 11th European Conference on Antennas and Propagation (EuCAP 2017) in Paris, France this week (March, 19-24, 2017). EuCAP 2017 is organized by the European Association on Antennas and Propagation (EurAAP), and since 2006, this major event has been bringing experts from academia, research centers, and industry together.

Dr. Rappaport presented a paper entitled, “Modeling the Response of Dielectric Slabs on Ground Planes Using CW Focused Millimeter Waves,” which he co-authored with researcher, Dr. Ann Morgenthaler, and ALERT students, Mahdiar Sadeghi and Elizabeth Wig. In this paper, the researchers present a novel non-iterative model based on ray analysis to characterize non-metallic, weak dielectric objects (like threat objects) on the surface of a highly conducting background (like the human body) using a focused continuous millimeter-wave sensor.

Dr. Martinez-Lorenzo presented a paper entitled, “High Capacity Imaging Using an Array of Compressive Reflector Antennas,” which he co-authored with ALERT students, Ali Molaei and Galia Ghazi, and researchers, Dr. Hipolito Gomez-Sousa and Dr. Juan Heredia-Juesas. In this paper, the authors propose to use an array of six compressive reflector antennas (CRAs), in order to be able to image an extended human-size region. A CRA is created by distorting the surface of a traditional parabolic reflector antenna. As a result of using CRAs, pseudo-random spatial codes are created at the imaging region. Because these spatial codes increase the information collected by each measurement, a smaller number of measurements are needed, which translates into less imaging time. Additionally, the electromagnetic cross-coupling between adjacent CRAs is used to enhance the sensing capacity of the system, as well as to extend the region that it can image. Current security checkpoints use a pause and pose sensing approach for passengers, and require divestment and recollection of passengers’ possessions. This results in a slow throughput in the overall system, and long lines at security check-points. In the presented work, the researchers have developed a fast, fully electronic system that will not require a pause and pose approach, resulting in quick and accurate screening of passengers and their belongings.

Professor Steve Beaudoin Awarded “Best Presentation” for ALERT Research at Annual AIChe Meeting March 6, 2017

ALERT researcher, Professor Steve Beaudoin of Purdue University was awarded “Best Presentation” in his session for a paper he presented on at the Annual AlChE Meeting in November 2016. The paper was based on his research project that was recently selected as a new ALERT project. The new project, titled “A Novel Method for Evaluating the Adhesion of Explosives Residue,” aims to provide insight into the reasons why explosives residues stick to surfaces and what must be done to effectively detect those residues in air transportation security environments.

The ultimate outcomes of this project include a library documenting the adhesion characteristics of explosives residues of interest against surfaces of interest, coupled with a spreadsheet that will allow members of the community to calculate adhesion forces between explosives and surfaces of interest. The end-users of the information developed by this project will include members of the Homeland Security community who are engaged with developing apparatuses, materials (swabs), and methods for contact sampling.  Specifically, this research will help them to interpret the results of their developmental work and to guide the creation of next-generation materials and methods for detecting explosives residues.

Professor Beaudoin will be presenting the outcomes of this research thus far at the annual Trace Explosives Detection (TED) Workshop in April, 2017.  This presentation will include all of the data collected, as well as a tutorial that illustrates how members of the Homeland Security community can use the data to calculate adhesion forces.

Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo Awarded $500K NSF CAREER Award March 6, 2017

ALERT Thrust R3 Project Investigator, Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University was recently awarded a $500K National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his work on developing a method for “4D mm-Wave Compressive Sensing and Imaging at One Thousand Volumetric Frames per Second.” Millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems are generally used for a wide range of applications, such as security monitoring to detect potential threats at the airport and biological imaging for wound diagnosis and healing. Because this is the first four-dimensional millimeter-wave imaging system that can operate in quick-changing scenarios, it will benefit society greatly.

One of the main applications of this system is finding security threats hidden under clothing, inside backpacks, or in public spaces, such as sports arenas. The system can scan multiple people within 26 cubic meters and produce 1000 3D image frames per second. This far surpasses existing millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems.

Despite the efficiency of this system, there are still some challenges to overcome. This project will look to address these challenges and ideally, the results of this research will establish the scientific basis for the proposed new sensing and imaging systems, by enhancing the imaging performance, reliability, and efficiency while reducing the hardware complexity, overall cost, and energy consumption of the system.

Additionally, Professor Martinez-Lorenzo will develop an educational program that combines classroom learning with research training methods to help students understand the principles and limitations of wave-based imaging. This educational program will also collaborate with the Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development Program to transition students into industry and the Northeastern University Center for STEM Education to provide valuable research experiences for K-12, undergraduate, and underrepresented students, as well as education through online materials and public venues.

ALERT’s Methods to Improve the Detection of Hidden Explosives Wins Patent March 3, 2017

ALERT researchers, Prof. Carey Rappaport and Prof. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University were awarded a patent for “Signal Processing Methods and Systems for Explosives Detection and Identification Using Electromagnetic Radiation” (U.S. Patent 9,575,045) on February 21, 2017.

This patent is for an algorithm designed to rule out non-explosive concealed foreign objects affixed to the skin (i.e. hidden under clothing). Current security screening systems, such as AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners used at airports to scan passengers, are able to identify items with distinct shapes that are hidden on the body, such as guns and knives. However, explosives are considerably more difficult to identify in this manner, due to the fact that the size and shape of explosives can vary greatly, leading to time-consuming and potentially dangerous security pat-downs to determine if a suspicious object is a security threat, or a wallet that a passenger forgot to place in the bin.

Prof. Rappaport and Prof. Martinez-Lorenzo believe their algorithm, when plugged into existing screening systems, will greatly reduce the number of false alarms, and thus, the number of pat-downs needed, leading to greater accuracy in threat detection and shorter security lines. The improved reliability would benefit many: passengers, airlines, and the Transportation Security Administration; and possibly lead to the expansion of AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners into everyday use, such as railway stations, sporting venues, and other soft targets.

Image caption: Simulation of a human form with explosives slab affixed to chest. 

Professor Rappaport Selected as an IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019 February 21, 2017

ALERT Deputy Director and Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, Carey Rappaport of Northeastern University was selected by the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society (AP-S) as a Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019. The IEEE AP-S Distinguished Lecturer Program sends experts, the Distinguished Lecturers, to visit active AP-S Chapters around the world and give talks on topics of interest and importance to the Antennas and Propagation community.

Professor Rappaport has been a Northeastern University faculty member since 1987, and has been teaching Electrical and Computer Engineering since July 2000. In 2011, he was appointed as a College of Engineering Distinguished Professor. Professor Rappaport has written over 400 technical journal articles and conference papers on various topics, including electromagnetic wave propagation and scattering computation, microwave antenna design, and bioelectromagnetics. He has also received two reflector antenna patents, two biomedical device patents, and four subsurface sensing device patents.

Professor Rappaport’s Distinguished Lecture topics include:

  • “A High Gain Toroidal Reflector Antenna for Multistatic 3-D Whole Body Millimeter-Wave Imaging”
  • “Multifocal Bootlace Lens Design Concepts”
  • “Modeling Frequency Dependent Biological Tissue for FDTD Analysis Using a Single Pole Z-Transform Conductivity Model”
  • “Localizing Tunnel Positions Under Rough Surfaces with Underground Focused Synthetic Aperture Radar”
  • “Modeling Standoff Radar Scattering of Concealed Body-Worn Objects for Suicide Bomber Detection”
  • “Electromagnetic Sensing and Treatment of Living Things: Using Microwaves to Detect and Treat Disease in Humans and Trees”
  • “Advanced Concepts for Ground Penetrating Radar Detection of Land Mines.”

Congratulations to Professor Rappaport on being selected as an IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019!

2016-2017 Kurlat Scholarship Awarded January 27, 2017

ALERT student, Anthony Bisulco of Northeastern University is the 2016-2017 recipient of The Saul and Gitta Kurlat Undergraduate Engineering Scholarship.  This is the second year in a row that Anthony was selected for this award based on his academic excellence and strong dedication to the research he engages in with ALERT researcher, Dr. Jose Martinez. Anthony is a 3rd year undergraduate pursuing the BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition to conducting ALERT research, Anthony also serves on the ALERT Student Leadership Council.

Established in 2004, this scholarship is made possible through the generous donation of Saul Kurlat (M.S. Engineering Management, Northeastern University, Class of 1962) and his wife, Gitta Kurlat. Their endowment for a renewable scholarship award is used to support a deserving undergraduate engineering student who is actively involved in research with the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS) at Northeastern University.

ALERT Researcher Named IAPR Fellow January 27, 2017

Professor Yun Raymond Fu, ALERT researcher and interdisciplinary faculty member affiliated with the College of Engineering and the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University, has been selected as a fellow of the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR). Fellows are elected to the IAPR every two years as an acknowledgment of distinguished contributions in the field of pattern recognition and to the organization’s activities.

Professor Fu was selected to be a fellow for his contributions to pattern recognition, data mining and visual intelligence. Professor Fu’s research interests include machine learning and computational intelligence, social media analytics, human-computer interaction, and cyber-physical systems. He is the founding director of the Synergistic Media Learning Lab.

Additionally, Professor Fu contributes to Video Be on the Lookout (vBOLO), a project led by ALERT and VACCINE (Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments), both DHS Centers of Excellence, in conjunction with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA). vBOLO applies cutting-edge research in human re-identification using subjects’ clothing, gait, and faces to produce an entirely computerized system that could interface directly with a video surveillance network to automatically find re-appearances of tagged suspects. The potential impact of large-scale re-identification systems in major transit hubs and other crowded venues includes reductions in thefts, real-time or forensic tracking of suspects’ destinations or origins in surveillance video, and assessments of intervention strategies on flow rates and system efficiency.

ALERT congratulates Professor Fu on his IAPR fellowship!

ALERT Receives Funding for Strategic Initiatives November 1, 2016

The ALERT Center of Excellence at Northeastern University has received additional funding from the Department of Homeland Security for the following  projects:

  • A project entitled Research and Development of Systems for Tracking Passengers and Divested Items at the Checkpoint, also known by its acronym CLASP (Correlating Luggage and Specific Passengers), which will address tracking passengers and divested items at the checkpoint.
  • In collaboration with the Center for Visualization at Data Analytics (CVADA), ALERT received funding to continue the development of a Video Be on the Lookout (vBOLO) system to help re-identify subjects of interest as they re-appear in a surveillance system.
  • ALERT also received funding for Adaptive Automatic Target Recognition for CT-Based Object Detection Systems, otherwise known as AATR. The researchers involved with this project will develop adaptive automated target recognition (ATR) algorithms for CT-based explosive detection systems (EDS) for inspection of divested items at the checkpoint and checked luggage. The focus will be on adaptive ATR (AATR) algorithms that can be configured in the field to add new targets after deployment without having to retrain and retest the ATR.
Photo caption: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s initial Airport Security Area Testbed serves as the foundation for the CLASP research effort.

ALERT Phase 2 Year 3 Annual Report Available Online! September 30, 2016

ALERT is proud to announce that the Phase 2 Year 3 Annual Report is now available for download online. This report details the continued research in ALERT’s four thrusts:

  • R1 Characterization & Elimination of Illicit Explosives
  • R2 Trace & Vapor Sensors
  • R3 Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems
  • R4 Video Analytics & Signature Analysis

A full bibliography of publications and presentations conducted under ALERT support follows the individual project reports. Comprehensive descriptions of the Year 3 activities that took place in our Research and Transition, Education, Strategic Studies, Safety, and Information Protection Programs, as well as the ALERT Phase 2 Overview and Year 3 Highlights, Infrastructure and Evaluation, and Industrial/Practitioner and Government Partnerships can also be accessed in the Annual Report.