Every Wednesday, R&D Magazine will feature a R&D 100 Flashback, chosen from our R&D 100 Awards archive of winners. This week’s flashback is Decision Sciences and Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Multi-Mode Passive Detection System (MM-PDS), which won the R&D 100 Award in 2013. The Earth’s upper atmosphere is under bombardment by cosmic radiation that produces showers of pions, which rapidly decay into a constant flux of muons (some 200 m2/sec) that shower objects on Earth. Since the muon angular trajectory changes as a function of the density and atomic weight of the material traversed, a unique “signature” for the substance can be developed. The ability to identify distinct material density enables the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System (MMPDS), developed by Decision Sciences International Corp. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, to quickly detect unshielded to heavily shielded nuclear threats, as well as gamma rays, with near-zero false alarms.

Q: Briefly describe your winning technology.

A: The Multi-Mode Passive Detection System (MMPDS) is a totally passive, safe, effective and automated scanning system for quickly detecting, locating and identifying unshielded to heavily shielded radiological and nuclear threats, explosives and other contraband including weapons, alcohol, cigarettes/tobacco, drugs/narcotics, precious metals, smuggled humans and numerous other items of interest. Based on revolutionary and disruptive technology originally invented by physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the commercially available MMPDS was developed by Decision Sciences International Corporation (DSIC) with considerable private sector investment and expertise to improve the safety and security of the global community.

Q: What made your winning technology better than what already existed?

A: MMPDS is the only technology capable of safely and passively detecting shielded or unshielded radiological, nuclear and explosive materials as well as being able to detect contraband such as cigarettes, drugs, weapons and alcohol. It is the only non-intrusive inspection (NII) system available on the market that provides a 3-D map of material signatures in conjunction with automated detection decision support for operators based on a proprietary material signature database. MMPDS makes use of naturally occurring cosmic ray muons and electrons to detect, locate and identify materials without the danger of hazardous ionizing radiation exposure.

Q: How important was your winning technology to its end application?

Image: Decision ScienceA: The MMPDS integrates many technologies, including unique sensor hardware, electronics, algorithms and software. The integration of these technologies, each one critical to the performance of the MMPDS, completely addresses the global need for cargo scanning and other applications. Decision Sciences not only privately developed these component technologies, but also fully integrated them into a commercial product.

Q: Have you changed your winning product since you won the R&D 100 Award?

A: DSIC has broadened the capability of the MMPDS to include the detection and identification of a broad range of contraband materials including weapons, alcohol, cigarettes/tobacco, drugs/narcotics, precious metals, smuggled humans and numerous other items of interest. Additionally, Decision Sciences has begun adapting the technology for rapid scanning applications, such as airline baggage and carry-on luggage, shipped parcels and portable electronics scanning at walk-through checkpoints.

Q: What value did winning an R&D 100 Award provide to you and your organization?

A:  The technology inherent in the MMPDS was launched and initially commercialized in 2012, but entering the marketplace and commencing sales and global business development efforts with the R&D 100 Award provided a premiere and impartial third party validation of the power and potential of the MMPDS. Winning the R&D 100 Award (considered the Oscar’s of the tech world) was a milestone achievement for DSIC, underscoring the capability, innovation and groundbreaking work behind the MMPDS and its technology.


The highly-anticipated educational tracks for the 2015 R&D 100 Awards & Technology Conference feature 28 sessions, plus keynote speakers Dean Kamen and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason.  Learn more.