Scheme: Industry Fellowship
Organisation: QinetiQ Ltd
Dates: Sep 2009-Aug 2011
Summary: The potential international market size for passive millimetre wave (PMMW) security screening is in the region of $2Bn/yr. Great progress was made over the last few years in PMMW imaging but acceptance by the market is hampered by the large size of quasi-optical systems and their poor sensitivity when used in real time. Aperture synthesis can solve this problem, as it enables the system to be collapsed into essentially two dimensions, employing close to fully filled antenna receiver arrays to offer high sensitivities for the detection of non-metallic threats.
Invention of the aperture synthesis technique won Martin Ryle and Antony Hewish the Nobel Physics Prize in 1974. Since then radio astronomers have refined the technique and whilst advances in modern digital technology enable a diversity of aperture synthesis applications. Basically the technique of aperture synthesis replaces the quasi-optical focussing elements with much more compact electronic focussing. Development of aperture synthesis applications in security screening, defence all-weather capabilities and satellite earth observation is the objective of this Royal Society Industry Fellowship.
By exploiting the knowledge of aperture synthesis techniques at Manchester University and electronic technology know-how in QinetiQ, a route to much more compact and highly sensitive imagers is being developed. Demonstrator imagers are being trialled at Manchester University. These use the latest commercially available off the shelf technology of high-speed digital signal processors, millimetre wave mixers and MMIC amplifiers. A variety of aperture antenna arrays, beam-forming algorithms and calibration routines are being optimised.
An exploitation route to develop a new range of products is being developed. These will be essentially flat panel imaging systems (only 1 to 2 centimetres thick). It will be possible to integrate these into the confined spaces of entrances for security screening and into the skins of aircraft for all-weather flying. These systems also form the basis of the millimetre wave earth observation imaging technology, currently on the European Space Agency technology roadmap for launch into a geostationary orbit in the year 2015-2020 time frame.