X-ray backscatter imaging can be used for a wide range of imaging applications, in particular for industrial inspection and portal security. Currently, the application of this imaging technique to the detection of landmines is limited due to the surrounding sand or soil strongly attenuating the 10s to 100s of keV X-rays required for backscatter imaging. Here, we introduce a new approach involving a 140 MeV short-pulse (< 100 fs) electron beam generated by laser wakefield acceleration to probe the sample, which produces Bremsstrahlung X-rays within the sample enabling greater depths to be imaged. A variety of detector and scintillator configurations are examined, with the best time response seen from an absorptive coated BaF2 scintillator with a bandpass filter to remove the slow scintillation emission components. An X-ray backscatter image of an array of different density and atomic number items is demonstrated. The use of a compact laser wakefield accelerator to generate the electron source, combined with the rapid development of more compact, efficient and higher repetition rate high power laser systems will make this system feasible for applications in the field.
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