This is the sixth interview in our series featuring the eight Opioid Detection Challenge finalists. We’re introducing each finalist and learning more about how their novel detection plans could quickly and accurately detect illicit opioids in parcels, without disrupting the flow of mail. The finalists are currently participating in a 14-week accelerator to develop their plans into testable prototypes. 

We spoke with William Mayo from the XID team. The company’s solution is an energy dispersive X-ray diffraction (EDXRD) technology that uses a polychromatic beam to increase signal strength and detection speed. Diffraction patterns are compared with a library of known threats.

What inspired you to enter the Opioid Detection Challenge?
The principals in our company have been working in threat detection for over 25 years, and the Challenge was an ideal way to introduce our technology as a strong candidate for opioid detection. We had tested illicit drugs previously with our instrument with great success, so we knew that opioids were readily detectable by diffraction techniques. The Challenge was the perfect platform to rapidly implement and deploy the diffraction technology.

What sets your opioid detection technology apart from existing solutions?
The key point about X-ray diffraction is the high specificity of the detection, which leads to very low false alarm rates. X-ray diffraction uniquely identifies the substance based on its crystal structure, so similar materials, such as opioid analogs, exhibit different X-ray signatures. Consequently, the diffraction method has little trouble distinguishing between real threats and benign substances.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about the role of your solution in the postal inspection process?
One of the key elements of our solution is that the machine requires no operator other than an area supervisor. The machine is self-contained and handles data acquisition, spectrum analysis, and threat assessment automatically, and then diverts suspicious parcels. This design improves the reliability of the technology and reduces the lifetime cost.

What’s your primary focus during the 14-week prototyping accelerator as you advance your solution?
Our primary focus will be on designing, building, and testing hardware in a form-factor appropriate for inspecting packages.

Read about the other finalists’ detection solutions and subscribe to the Challenge newsletter to read more interviews with finalist teams.