By Jamie Hale
A new partnership between Idaho State University and Scan Tech, a scanning technology company, could put Pocatello on the map in the world of homeland security technology.
Representatives from ISU and Scan Tech gathered at the ISU Research Building, formerly known as the Ballard Building, to announce the new partnership that will see university faculty and students working alongside company engineers with top-notch security scanning technology.
Scan Tech develops linear accelerators, machines that accelerate electrons to generate radiation that can then be used to scan objects, somewhat like a large x-ray machine. With the new partnership, the company will be developing that technology at the ISU Research Building.
The company uses the accelerators primarily as a way to peek inside large cargo containers to find any potentially hazardous items, like bombs, weapons or drugs. However, the accelerators can also be used to blast produce and medical equipment with radiation, a process that quickly kills bacteria and microorganisms, while leaving the products unharmed.
Scan tech has already deployed the technology in the Middle East, and is looking to send out more to other places around the world. At the new ISU facility, the company is planning to develop the latest generation of its accelerator technology.
The partnership is a no-brainer, said Dolan Falconer, president and chief executive officer of Scan Tech. With the accelerators in a university building, students and faculty get the opportunity to use rare, cutting-edge technology, while the company gets access to a top-notch facility.
“We’re just simply bringing a lot of very expensive equipment and basically allowing the university to use it,” said Falconer. “It’s kind of a win-win situation for the university.” He added that the doors will now open for government agencies to pay the university to also use the technology.
But ISU is taking the dream a step further. Eric Burgett, an assistant professor at ISU’s School of Engineering, said he envisions the accelerators to be produced and implemented at the ISU Research Building itself.
According to Burgett, a cargo-carrying truck could enter one door of the building, get scanned in 60 seconds, and leave through another door. In the 220,000 square-foot building, the possibilities seem endless.
ISU President Arthur Vailas said the collaboration gives the university a long-needed opportunity to leap ahead in the field of technology. “We needed to have a more comprehensive facility that could accomodate the kind of technology to continue our work, and we didn’t have anything like that on campus,” he said.
But it’s not just university faculty and students that will benefit. Vailas said the developing facility can help create new jobs and stir up activity among local businesses. After all, a large facility needs people to run it, he said.
With so much potential, ISU representatives said they’re trying to get the facility running as soon as possible. “I’m hoping that by Christmas we’re going to be shooting electrons down this thing,” said Burgett. “Realistically, mid-spring is what I would expect if certain hurdles are removed and we can run as fast as we can.”
A 2012 start date didn’t make anybody tone down the unfaltering optimism for the partnerships potential. “Anytime an organization has a global view, and then a national view, and then a local view and they directly align, that is something we should take very seriously in our investment,” said Vailas. “This is how we should be building America.”
Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@Gmail.com