Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has been on the forefront of creating methods and applied sciences to maintain America protected from exterior threats, focused particularly at chemical, organic, radiological, and nuclear menace detection. Our dedication to those efforts has not wavered within the practically twenty years since 9/11 and we stay dedicated to persevering with to push the boundaries of science to make sure our nation stays protected and vigilant within the face of the ever-evolving menace panorama.

Before I inform you about developments in these areas, let me introduce you to PNNL. The laboratory is one of 17 Department of Energy nationwide laboratories stewarded by DOE’s Office of Science. Our analysis strengthens the nation’s basis for innovation, and we discover options for not solely DOE, however for the Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Defense, different authorities companies, universities, and business. We have scientific strengths and historic capabilities with roots within the Manhattan Project of the Forties. Threat detection know-how growth is a central half of these applications and one during which science performs a very essential position. We have greater than 5,000 workers and most of them are primarily based at our essential campus in Richland, Wash. – our home since 1965.

As affiliate laboratory director of the National Security Directorate, I oversee the portfolio of nationwide safety applications and partnerships at PNNL. The laboratory’s nationwide security-focused workers account for over 1,500 employees members – practically a 3rd of whole PNNL employees. And the National Security mission’s annual analysis price range accounts for about half of the laboratory’s price range.

The nationwide safety portfolio is designed to maintain America protected by way of science-based options. PNNL’s nationwide safety researchers, instruments and applied sciences assist safe U.S. borders and important infrastructure, fight world terrorism, detect hid threats and explosives, and develop applied sciences that assist monitor treaties for compliance. Here are some of the methods my NSD colleagues are making that occur.

Helping make air journey safer

Perhaps no innovation higher illustrates PNNL’s homeland safety capabilities than the entire physique scanner using millimeter wave know-how. This know-how highlights PNNL’s radar imaging and optics capabilities, which use protected, ultra-high frequency radio waves to penetrate clothes and non-metallic obstacles to detect and establish hid weapons, explosives, and contraband. This pioneering analysis in optical and acoustic holography dates again to when PNNL started within the Nineteen Sixties when lab researchers pioneered the event of this know-how. Millimeter wave know-how led to creating Transportation Security Administration safety scanners at passenger checkpoints in airports. These scanners – developed at PNNL and licensed within the non-public sector – have successfully and safely scanned for hid weapons in addition to liquids, gels, plastics, powders, ceramics, and different threats that conventional metallic detectors would miss. Whole-body scanning safety methods, launched in 2011, are deployed at airports worldwide. Today, greater than 1,300 methods are in place in 250 airports throughout the nation and all over the world. And not too long ago, PNNL launched the most recent innovation utilizing millimeter wave know-how, an development that might remove the inconvenient pre-boarding ritual of removing your shoes. This development, which was licensed earlier this yr to a personal firm, might present a three-dimensional picture of passengers’ footwear whereas their footwear stay on their toes – shortly figuring out hid threats.

Improvements proceed with the first airport screening system, advances that will at some point enable passengers to stroll by way of safety checkpoints with out pausing because the imaging system screens them in actual time with elevated effectivity and effectiveness. Dave Sheen is the technical crew chief and engineer who manages the millimeter wave know-how program at PNNL. Dave shares that the up to date HD-Advanced Imaging Technology scanner affords a lot larger decision, whereas dramatically decreasing false alarms in comparison with the first-generation know-how.

“Improvements continue with the primary airport screening device, advances that may one day allow passengers to walk through security checkpoints without pausing”

Protecting U.S. ports of entry

PNNL has led the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to implement a radiation scanning program on the roughly 300 ports of entry on the U.S. northern and southern land borders and all main seaports, in addition to in worldwide mail services, Express Consignment Courier services, and at preclearance websites. Today, practically 100% of all privately and commercially owned automobiles, vehicles, and cargo coming into the U.S. through seaports and land border crossings are scanned for radioactive supplies. Under the path of DHS and in shut partnership, PNNL labored expertly and expeditiously to implement radiation scanning on the ports of entry thus establishing a essential layer within the multi-layer protection technique set forth by the U.S. authorities shortly after the fateful occasions of 9/11. Each radiation portal monitor system is succesful of producing an alarm when it detects radiation emanating from nuclear gadgets, soiled bombs, particular nuclear supplies, and non-compliant isotopes generally utilized in medication and business. If an alarm happens, additional investigation is carried out to find out whether or not or not the radiation is a possible terrorist menace, a pure supply, or a reliable medical or industrial supply. PNNL started putting in these detection methods in 2002 and accomplished the bold nationwide schedule in 2009. Now, with respect to radiation portal displays, the laboratory performs a essential position in supporting the sustainment of the scanning functionality, deploying and reconfiguring gear to help the ever-evolving radiation scanning mission in addition to figuring out and integrating new applied sciences to ease the burden of operations and reduce the affect to reliable commerce. Additionally, PNNL has been tasked by DHS to supply enter to new port and crossing designs; conduct evaluations, testing, and integration of new scanning system parts and related software program; carry out system calibrations and upkeep; present enter to new system necessities growth; develop and show new system prototypes; and supply impartial technical security and efficiency measurements.

Identifying and stopping bodily assaults

PNNL scientists have developed a know-how that may shortly detect explosive vapors, lethal chemical substances, and illicit medication with unparalleled accuracy. VaporID precisely detects and identifies the vapors of even very low-volatility explosives in actual time, in extraordinarily small quantities, at ambient temperature, and with out pattern pre-concentration. The know-how identifies explosive compounds, similar to C-4, PETN, Semtex, nitroglycerin, tetryl, and TNT, in addition to vapors emanating from poisonous chemical substances comparable in construction to nerve brokers. Recently, the potential was confirmed efficient at figuring out illicit medication, similar to fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Rather than looking for particle residue utilizing a typical technique like floor swipes or utilizing pulses of air to dislodge particles for evaluation, the system ‘sniffs’ straight for explosives vapors, a lot the way in which bomb-sniffing canines do. VaporID was named the 2020 Innovation of the Year by GeekWire, the Seattle-based know-how information firm.

Vapor detection know-how demonstrated by PNNL in 2012. (Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Defending towards cyber threats

PNNL is a pacesetter in creating the foundational understanding and applied sciences for security of our power grid. We take a broad method to this essential nationwide want – from stewarding operational capabilities just like the Cybersecurity Risk Information Sharing Program (CRISP) to creating solely new applied sciences that hold our defenses on the forefront. CRISP performs cyber menace detection utilizing knowledge shared by utilities to carry out an intelligence-informed evaluation that identifies threats that neither utilities alone, nor non-public cybersecurity companies, can establish. CRISP offers a robust complement to what utilities and personal cybersecurity companies present. The nation’s power infrastructure, notably the ability grid, has develop into a serious goal, with extra frequent and complex assaults from nation-states and cyber criminals. Cyber incidents might disrupt power providers, injury extremely specialised gear, and threaten public well being and security. With 90 % of the nation’s energy infrastructure privately held, grid operators and utilities are answerable for defending their methods from threat. PNNL helps the Department of Energy’s cybersecurity aim of strengthening immediately’s power supply methods and creating extra resilient, self-defending power methods for the longer term. PNNL has greater than 100 technical consultants targeted on cybersecurity infrastructure analysis and options. They assist make sure the reliability and safety of the nation’s energy system.

Moving ahead

As we glance forward, PNNL will proceed to evolve and adapt its capabilities to develop and implement methods and applied sciences and instruments to detect and forestall threats to our nation’s security and safety – even whereas these threats develop into extra subtle, various, and discrete. As a multi-purpose nationwide laboratory, we’ve the power to attract upon various areas of experience to develop options to counter urgent homeland safety threats whether or not these be artifical or pure.

As I replicate on the significance of this anniversary, I’m reminded of the experiences of a colleague, Larry Morgan. Larry is a chemist and venture supervisor who got here to work at PNNL at its inception, in 1965. And in October 2002, Larry moved throughout the nation to finally assist arise essential components of the latest division within the federal authorities: the Department of Homeland Security.

In a latest word to his colleagues, Larry recalled working 16-hour days as DHS turned official on March 3, 2003.

“These experiences solidified my view of the role of science in the position within a triangle of national policy, agency programs, and operational needs,” Larry wrote. “The scope of our work quickly expanded after 9/11 as PNNL assessed the capabilities we could offer to various U.S. agencies.”

PNNL’s nationwide safety capabilities and scope proceed to increase to this present day because the mission of the U.S. companies we help evolves, with a collective singular concentrate on preserving America protected. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist assaults that profoundly impacted us as a nation, we’re as motivated as ever to develop menace detection applied sciences for a safer world. We achieve this with an abiding respect for science, but additionally by way of a deep sense of dedication to our nation.

To study extra, go to: