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  For Immediate Release  
  Contact: Phil Bloomer  
  Phone: (217) 403-4690  
Sept. 27, 2006
U.S. Rep. Johnson Announces Homeland Security Grants

Washington, D.C. -  U.S. Representative Timothy V. Johnson today announced the award of two grants from the Department of Homeland Security to University of Illinois researchers engaged in aviation security.

“I’m happy to work on behalf of these individuals who are doing critical research directly related to the safety and security of our citizens,” said Rep. Johnson. “It pleases me also that the expertise of our professors is being recognized in a tangible way by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Michael Strano in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is being awarded $250,000 for continuing work in explosive screening using nanotechnologies.

Professor Strano is developing a new type of electronic sensor based on carbon nanotubes for the selective detection of explosives.  The sensors may improve security screening at airports and other security checkpoints.  An attractive aspect of this technology is its potential to be miniaturized and its low power consumption.

Professor Strano will focus on understanding how chemistry can be utilized to control the electronic response. 

“This new type of sensor is exquisitely sensitive, but the challenge is making them more selective towards explosives and to reset quickly to minimize delays during screening,” said Professor Strano, who first joined the faculty at UIUC in 2003.  His research at the University of Illinois utilizes nanotechnology to solve societal problems. 

Jason McCarley in the Institute of Aviation is being awarded another $190,000 for ongoing work on human factors involved in airport security. The aim of the work is to help develop better training techniques and computerized aids for baggage x-ray screeners.

The research team has participants perform simulated baggage screening tasks while recording eye movements and other behavioral data. The intent is to understand the decision-making process involved in each task and identify ways of improving performance.



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