High-tech liquid scanner set to shorten airport queues

May 6, 2014

Long airport security lines and restrictive hand luggage rules could be consigned to the past

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

ANGRY passengers, long queues and strict guidelines over liquids on planes could be substantially reduced by a new airport scanner for liquids. 

The scanning device will analyse and test liquids in containers for explosives at airport security points without staff having to open them.

Heathrow and Gatwick are among 65 airports to test out the new scanners over the next two years. 

A foiled 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic flights using explosives concealed in drink bottles led to a restriction on the amount of liquid permitted in passenger hand luggage. 

Passengers have since faced strict guidelines over the amount of liquids permitted on planes with current limits set at containers of 100ml or less.

Thousands of containers that don't meet the 100ml rule are abandoned every year at airports, resulting in lengthy queues at security.

Heathrow confiscates around 2,000 tonnes of liquids per year, according to the Guardian

The container-screening scanner, which is called ‘Insight100’, was developed by Cobalt Light Systems. It uses a technique of Rahman spectroscopy where liquids, powders or gels within sealed containers can be scanned at security checkpoints within five seconds.  

The scanner works by shining a laser beam at the container. A spectrum of light returns and the scanner cross-checks the container against a library of recognised dangerous liquids deemed as potential threats.  

Paul Loeffen, Chief Executive of Cobalt Light Systems, told The Times: “The aim of airport authorities has always been to get back to the state of normality as it was in 2006. But that meant meeting certain detection standards.  

''The bombs [planned by the terrorists involved in the 2006 plot] were made from concentrated hydrogen peroxide and chapati flour. It’s very scary stuff.'' 

The new scanner has been nominated for the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award

Experts believe that the device's future uses may include food analysis, the detection of counterfeit goods and non-evasive cancer screening.

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A foiled 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic flights using explosives concealed in drink bottles

I remember how at the time, actual chemists pointed out that the supposed "liquid explosives" weren't particularly explosive, and educated opinion concluded that the plot was nonsense concocted by poorly educated idiots. Anything for a spot of security theatre, I suppose, and only a cynic would say that it was all about tasty contracts forso-called security "experts".

"detection of counterfeit goods and non-evasive cancer screening."
eh? non-what cancer screening?