Make Your Own TSA “Naked” Scanner

Have you ever wanted to ability to see through objects? Perhaps you have been looking for something special for your own personal TSA role playing adventures? Well, [Jeri Ellsworth] has your back. She has managed to cobble together her own millimeter centimeter wave scanner using a hacked set of Feed Horns (like from a satellite dish) to create the image. By reversing the power transistor on one of the Feed Horns, one of the horns is made into a transmitter, while one of the other horns stays as a receiver. This data is then fed into a FPGA by way of an A2D converter, where an image is assembled when the scanner is moved over a surface. X and Y axis tracking is handled by an optical mouse also controlled by the FPGA, and the whole setup is output to a monitor.

Right now there is no text write up, or any specific details as the hack will vary by whatever Feed Horn is available. However, the video does a great job of explaining some of the electrical concepts, as well as some very useful schematics. Be sure to watch the whole video after the break, and don’t blame us for any health complications, whether the radiation is ionizing or not.

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82 thoughts on “Make Your Own TSA “Naked” Scanner

  1. you can do something about TSA abuse, always chose pat down instead of rapeOscope and before procedure dont forget to rub some through the pocket so they can really feel all the goods

  2. @Jeri – the FPGA approach is interesting, as is your comment that you can prototype much faster with it. I’d be interested in knowing more about your methods and tools. Perhaps a presentation of some sort?
    Great hacks, I’m jealous of your prolific output.

  3. Cool project! I think it would be possible to rig up a scanner like the ones at the airports, but it would be a much much more involved project. To get around the depth issue they use a wideband swept source several GHz wide, and the image is actually a hologram. One of the arms is the transmitter and the other the receiver. They are in arrays however, and would require substantially more microwave components.

    One could actually build something better than an airport scanner by increasing the frequency. By doubling the frequency it would double the resolution, and probably the cost by 4 :)

    Do some searching on “Millimeterwave holographic scanner” and you can find the original research (done at a public research lab here in the US as I recall) not too long ago.

  4. was anyone else disappointed with the “aluminum hand under particle board” test. i mean, the results were impressive. i was just looking forward to seeing the results of a “brass knuckles under the shirt” test.

  5. JE,
    if you read the old posts, seriously, check out the conference linked to (indirectly) above. I know you’re an fpga-er, but there’s always some neat stuff going on with these guys.

  6. Awe is right !

    Keep knocking out the hardware !

    Since you are doing chip design, check out the UofAZ guys that found a new process for converting heat directly to current using benzene chains!

    They say it should be a paintable process soon.
    Also going to be threads, usable in via’s.
    Is going to totally change the way LED packages are designed, and looks like it will be a great way to keep resistors and electro caps cool too.

    a real game changer in low power apps too, you will be able to recycle some of the thermo losses.

  7. Jeri,
    You are absolutely brilliant and amazingly you are also one of those extremely rare geniuses who can truly transcend the SuperGeek to layman (or laywoman) barrier. I applaud your work on this project. What I liked best was the brilliant method you used rewiring the existing components to turn a receiver into an emitter. You are truly an amazing engineer in the best sense of the term !!

  8. Calling it “millimeter wave” is fine. In the industry, anything using wavelengths below a few centimeters is called millimeter wave.
    The L-3 scanner TSA uses operates at 24-30 GHz (I know, I tested it), i.e. 1 cm, and that is referred to as “millimeter wave” too.

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