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Scanning liquids at airports


Scanning liquids at airports

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Volume limitations for liquids and gels in carry-on baggage has become a major airport security problem post 9 -11. It means restrictions for passengers and long queues for security clearance.

But Britain’s Cobalt Light Systems hopes that the problem may soon be a thing of the past. Their Insight100 scanner uses laser beams to assess the liquid contents of containers, even if they are opaque. This table-top security scanner can analyse a liquid within just five seconds and has gone on trial at 65 European airports.

Ken Mann, the vice-president of Security Products at Cobalt Light Systems Ltd, said: “After five seconds it’s either an alarm or it’s not. If there’s an alarm then it’s a red light and it tells you what the threat is. If it’s not an alarm the door opens, the screen goes green, and the bottle can be returned to the passenger. In terms of what’s actually happening we shine a laser at the bottle and analyse the light that’s coming back, compare that with a spectrum and a library of threat materials. If it’s a threat we alarm and if it’s not it’s not.”

This is not the first liquids scanner but in the past, the results were not reliable or consistent enough to be practical for use in a busy airport.
But the Insight100 reportedly has a false alarm rate of less than 0.5% and can be used on bottles holding up to three litres, and the height of the reading device can be adjusted for partially-filled containers.

Ken Mann said: “With our technique, we can go through barriers, be they plastic or glass, coloured glass, cardboard, various materials, and we can see what’s inside without having to open them.”

Additionally, the scanner’s library of liquids it recognises can be continuously updated, to recognize newly-identified security threats.

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