News & Events
ALERT Co-Director Provides Insight on Marathon Bombing Devices April 20, 2013
ALERT Co-Director Jimmie Oxley speaks with Rhode Island News Team 10 about the type of explosive devices used in the Boston Marathon Bombings.
Pressure cooker bombs, like the ones reportedly used in the explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, are a common and simple way to make an explosive device, according to a University of Rhode Island chemistry professor.
“It only takes a small amount of black powder to ignite a powerful blast,” said Jimmie Oxley, who also is a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center for Excellence for Explosives, Detection, Mitigation and Response.
She said if you put it inside a common kitchen pressure cooker, you’ll have a weapon. The steel container will make fragments which are what do the most damage.
“If you feel the sharpness of those edges, if that hits you, you can see why it takes off an arm. If it was a pressure cooker, it would create frag,” Oxley said.
Oxley said of all terrorist weapons, a homemade bomb is the most accessible…Read More
ADSA09 – Call for Speakers February 4, 2013
ALERT is actively looking for speakers for the ADSA09 – Ninth Workshop for Algorithm Development for Security Applications: New Signatures for Explosive Detection for Aviation Security. This event will take place on May 7-8, 2013 at Northeastern University’s campus in Boston, MA.
Handheld IED Detection Device with Firestorm Emergency Services November 8, 2012
ALERT research out of Missouri University of Science and Technology, led by Prof. Daryl Beetner, is currently working to develop methods to indirectly detect and locate explosives by identifying the electromagnetic emissions from these electronic initiators. This approach has the advantage that a device can potentially be detected from tens or even hundreds of meters away in a very short period of time using relatively small, inexpensive, low-power sensors.
Hidden explosives can be extraordinarily difficult to locate. While the most obvious approach is to look for the explosive compound, techniques which look for these compounds often only work from short distances, can only be used over a very limited area, or are very slow to generate a detection. An alternative is to instead look for the electronic trigger that is used to initiate the explosive. Electronics used in triggers like timers, wireless receivers, motion detectors, and microcontrollers, emit electromagnetic energy (i.e. radio waves) when they are turned on. These radio waves can potentially be detected from long distances in a short period of time using relatively small, inexpensive, low-power sensors.
In the last year, Beetner and his team have developed techniques to locate (not just detect) radio receivers using a stimulated emissions approach. Detection of electronics has an advantage over many other explosives detection techniques in that it can potentially be done relatively quickly from relatively long range and can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment. It gives the bomb technician one more point of information with which to make a decision about the presence of explosives and how to deal with the explosives once found. As Beetner explains, “We’ve developed methods to accurately detect and locate the most common types of radio receivers. We’ve shown that these techniques are fast and work well at long distances, even in very noisy urban environments”. While detection of suspect electronics does not necessarily indicate the presence of an explosive device, this information can be combined with other information relatively easily to confirm or add information about a threat. The information is unique from other explosive sensors so it is well primed for sensor fusion.
ALERT has teamed up with Firestorm Emergency Services to develop a commercial product around algorithms developed by Beetner and his group. Firestorm manufactures a small, inexpensive, hand-held device for detecting and locating the electromagnetic signatures from aircraft emergency beacons and from radio location beacons worn by Alzheimer’s patients, so they already have hardware under development that is ideal for the team’s approach. The fundamental detection methods developed here are also being extended with Firestorm to develop systems for locating vehicles at remote border crossings.
An Introduction to the Research and Industrial Collaboration Conference (RICC) October 3, 2012
For more than a decade, the RICC has fostered in-depth dialog among members of the academic, industrial and government communities interested in collaboration in subsurface sensing and imaging and homeland security related topics. This video, taken at the 2011 RICC, provides an overview of the successful event from the perspective of its participants.
Nextgov.com spotlights ALERT partnership with L3 October 3, 2012
The Homeland Security Department has funded a $1.1 million project at Northeastern University to advance the technique of using medical CT scans for bomb detection.
The research will be aimed at modifying computer tomography systems to automatically recognize explosives and items that can be used for detonation, according to federal business databases.Read More
ALERT@NU hosts FEMA Region 1 Research to Resilience Workshop September 28, 2012
ALERT at Northeastern is proud to have hosted the FEMA Region 1 “Research to Resilience” Workshop held in Boston, MA on September 27, 2012. More than 200 attendees and 11 DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs) participated in this event.
The Research to Resilience Workshop was developed to link local and government agencies with DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs) in hopes of accelerating the transition of center developed research and education to improve preparedness. This inaugural event was administered through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs and FEMA Region 1.
ALERT co-director, Prof. Michael B. Silevitch, gave one of the opening presentations for this half-day workshop. The day included discussions about establishing a framework for transition, examples of successful partnerships, a research showcase, and a tabletop exercise to work through the process of transitioning specific COE technology into use.
During the research and technology showcase, the COEs displayed their research achievements at 17 different booths, holding more than 30 hands-on demos for attendees. ALERT at Northeastern showcased its tools developed in video analytics, IED detection, and explosives detection sensors. ALERT at University of Rhode Island also made a strong showing in areas including the development of blast-resistant materials.Read More
2012 Post Doctoral Research Associate Position August 7, 2012
Location: Gordon-CenSSIS Optical Sciences Laboratory, Northeastern University
The Gordon-CenSSIS Optical Sciences Laboratory in the College of Engineering at Northeastern University, is looking for a Post Doctoral Research Associate to perform basic research, maintain the laboratory, and assist the supervisor in the interpretation and publication of results and grants.
Candidate must have a Ph.D. or equivalent, experience in Matlab, electronic test equipment, optical breadboarding, safe operation and handling of laser diodes, among other things, and must be able to undertake substantially full-time research or scholarship, working under the supervision of a senior scholar.
This position ranges in pay between $36,848 – $60,733, with a midpoint of $48,791. Qualified applicants should send their resume to Anne Magrath at email@example.com.
For questions and more information, contact Emel Bulat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALERT, Square One partnership leads to NSF Small Business award August 6, 2012
ALERT researchers at Northeastern University partnered with Square One Systems Design to win a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center – Small Business award in the area of automated landmine detection. This promising partnership leverages the strengths of academic and industry experts for a project with broad humanitarian and research potential
The partnership involves pairing Square One’s Walking Tri-Sphere (WTS) robot with ALERT’s Ground-Penetrating Radar solution. The WTS robot has the ability to autonomously negotiate rugged terrain, making it well suited for operating in a buried explosives environment, but object detection was a missing critical component. ALERT deputy director Carey Rappaport and researcher Jose Martinez are leading the Northeastern team in developing an effective and inexpensive Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) solution. If successful, the combined GPR-WTS system will enhance automated characterization of subsurface environments.
Current methods of demining involve slow and dangerous manual probing, or use very expensive and often delicate advanced technology. Square One and ALERT hope that this partnership will blaze a path toward fully automated demining operations and serve as a jumping off point to other significant subsurface characterizations.
In addition to the humanitarian benefits, this partnership creates a wealth of opportunities for student participation. Graduate and undergraduate students at Northeastern are actively involved in this cutting-edge design project, participating in computational modeling, reconstruction algorithm development, and antenna design and testing aspects.
Northeastern Ph. D. student Margery Hines, working with Carey Rappaport, won judges’ choice in the 2012 National NSF IGERT Online Video & Poster competition for her presentation of a computational study that demonstrated an ability to locate both metallic and non-metallic anti-personnel landmines.
Be one of the first to back FoRCE – a new product for Data Recovery July 6, 2012
Keith Bertolino, CEO and co-founder of Cipher Tech Solutions, and former Gordon Engineering Leadership student, is launching the prototype of FoRCE. Using an advanced method of digital forensics called “carving,” FoRCE would give even non-savvy computer users the ability to recover large amounts of deleted images, text, and other data files from Windows computers. In order to fund this project, Keith is leveraging Indiegogo to crowdfund his prototype. Get your own copy of FoRCE and help fund the project at Indiegogo!
ALERT Research in Chemistry World January 13, 2012
ALERT research, led by Prof. Louisa Hope-Weeks at Texas Tech University, could make the sensitive materials used in highly explosive detonators safer for mining and military use, as well as less harmful to the environment.Read More