HiEnergy Technologies, Inc., a nuclear technologies-based company, engages in the research, design, testing, and development of proprietary stoichiometric sensor devices and technologies. Its stoichiometric sensor is a technology capable of remote and nonintrusive, quantitative online deciphering of the chemical composition of substances, including explosives, biological weapons, and illegal drugs. The company focuses on the commercialization of its prototype devices, including the CarBomb Finder 3C4, a vehicle-borne system that identifies and confirms the presence of selected explosive substances in vehicles or containers in a noninvasive manner and the SIEGMA 3E3, a portable suitcase-borne system for the detection and identification of home-made bombs. The company markets its devices to governmental and private entities in the United States. HiEnergy Technologies also develops other technology versions, including SuperSenzor and MiniSenzor using its Stoichiometric sensor technology. The company was incorporated in 2000 and was formerly known as SLW Enterprises, Inc. HiEnergy Technologies is based in Irvine, California.
Friday, August 11, 2006 Air safety made in O.C.? By JOHN GITTELSOHN The Orange County Register
A small Irvine company may have the technology that would allow passengers to bring their hair gels and beverages aboard planes again without compromising safety.
HiEnergy Technologies developed a chemical detection system that some experts say could help foil plots to blow up planes such as the one exposed in Britain this week. For years, though, the company has struggled to sell the system to airport authorities.
“I think their technology is revolutionary and we need it,” said Charles Slepian, founder of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center in New York.
Current airport screening devices, such as X-ray machines, cannot see chemicals inside sealed packages. That's why airlines banned passengers from bringing liquids on planes.
“What happened today tells us we have to revisit baggage screening,” said Roger Spillmann, chief executive officer of the 20-employee company.
HiEnergy's devices can see into packages by shooting neutrons which bounce back as gamma rays that paint a distinct signature for each chemical, enabling screeners to spot nitroglycerine, plastic explosives, drugs such as cocaine or plain water.
“Each element has its own energy so we can pick up chemical formulas,” Spillmann said. “We also can tell you the components are there to mix explosives.”
Currently, only the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, a commuter rail operator, has contracted to use HiEnergy's “Atometer” explosive detection system. HiEnergy has also won research contracts with the U.S. military for products to search for landmines, unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices.
Spillmann said the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airport security, is reluctant to deal with a company as small as HiEnergy.
Nico Melendez, a Los Angeles spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said he is unfamiliar with HiEnergy but his agency welcomes new ideas.
“Obviously, we constantly work with industry to improve and develop new technology,” Melendez said.
Another concern is that chemical screenings would slow the boarding process. Spillmann said the TSA wants to process 10 packages a minute but his company's machines can read only about two or three packages a minute. He said it would take $1 million and one year for HiEnergy to build a usable prototype.
Slepian, the risk analyst and a frequent critic of the TSA, conceded that HiEnergy's technology is too slow to screen all baggage but might work as a secondary process.
“The government is right when they say they're a little company.” Slepian said. “But the government's job is to make them bigger when they can save lives.”
Latest Plot Points Up Need for More Sophisticated Airport Screening BY CHUCK McCUTCHEON Newhouse News Service, 8/11/06
WASHINGTON -- The disrupted plot to blow up airplanes between London and the United States highlights the urgent need for high-tech systems that can detect liquid and other forms of explosives, aviation security experts said Thursday.
Several said technologies have advanced to where they could be put in place at airports, even though systems are costly and passengers likely to be inconvenienced.
"It's not that we don't know how to do security -- it's that we don't want to spend for it," said Douglas Laird, a former Northwest Airlines security chief who is now a consultant in Reno, Nev.
Charles Slepian, head of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center in New York, said the British plotters' intention to mix chemical explosives aboard planes was a threat that should have been addressed long ago. He cited a failed 1995 al-Qaida plot in the Philippines in which terrorists planned to bring aboard nitroglycerin bombs in bottles used for contact lens solution.
"We need to put in place technologies that will give us a chemical analysis of things carried on board," said Slepian, a frequent critic of the Transportation Security Administration. "Visual inspection simply isn't good enough -- you can't tell whether something will go bang in the night."
Several different technologies can measure the chemical properties of vapors or particulate matter collected from passengers or carry-on luggage. The TSA and other agencies fund research in these areas, but some critics accuse them of not moving fast enough.
"I'm seriously troubled because the U.S. counterterrorism apparatus has been very slow to find and bring online technologies that can counter new threats," said Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security.
"Over-investing in screening technologies is not where you get the biggest bang for the buck," said James Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "Everybody wants a system that is perfect and never makes mistakes; those things don't exist."
Slepian cited one company, HiEnergy Technologies of Irvine, Calif., that has developed a system to identify concealed explosives. In tests with the Navy, the company said it detected all explosives and provided accurate chemical identification of more than 80 percent.
"We actually perform chemistry in midair," said Roger Spillmann, the company's president and CEO. "Any substance can be examined, liquid or solid."
Earlier this year, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority began using two HiEnergy systems. The $300,000 devices are enclosed in suitcases and can detect explosive materials remotely. So far, they have been deployed in training exercises and on patrol, but have not been needed in an actual emergency, said Capt. John Wenke of the authority's Transit Police Department.
Laird, the consultant, said technology for detecting liquid explosives is only a "partial solution" because terrorists are likely to find ways to smuggle small quantities aboard planes without having them scanned.
In his view, the government also needs to widely deploy computer tomography systems that are more accurate than X-rays. "With an X-ray, your chance of finding anything other than a gun or knife is minimal at best," he said.
One company, American Science & Engineering Inc. of Billerica, Mass., has developed a system that creates a photo-like image as it scans parcels or containers for explosives or other materials. It is awaiting word from TSA on its usage, said company spokeswoman Dana Harris.
Stephen McHale, a former TSA deputy administrator, said the government "is moving as fast as the technology exists" on airport security screening.
McHale said it could be impractical to use technologies to search many different types of liquids for explosives, because "you end up having to look for so many materials, you've gone beyond what you can reasonably administer."
Alternatives, he said, might be to increase physical searches of passengers or further restrict carry-ons.
David Stempler, president of the Potomac, Md.-based Air Travelers Association, envisions tighter restrictions on carry-on luggage, pointing out that the TSA's increased security measures do not affect checked luggage.
Those averse to checking baggage might find the new limits hard.
"Not only does it add time at the front end, but you've got to wait at the back end," Stempler said. "And there's the fear that your bag is not going to be there."
But he predicted travelers would come to accept the adjustments.
"People just don't like the period when it's in transition, when the rules change. But once they know what the rules are, everyone seems to go along with it and fall in line."