Device detects explosives on the shoes of airline passengers

A prototype air sampling system has been developed to detect trace amounts of explosives on the shoes of airline passengers.

The device, developed by Matthew Staymates and colleagues at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), blows particles from passengers’ shoes for analysis.

According to the American Institute of Physics, the NIST engineers have developed several versions of the system.

‘One particular device is a kiosk-style instrument that people step into, never having to physically remove their shoes for sampling,’ said Staymates.

‘Air jets are located in strategic locations and are used to dislodge particles from the shoe surface, and a large blower establishes a bulk flow field that ensures all liberated particles are transported in the appropriate direction.’

In order to be used commercially, the sampling system — which can collect particles in six to seven seconds — would have to be combined with a particle collection device and a chemical analyser.

Staymates said: ‘Incorporating a particle collection device and a chemical analyser would certainly be possible in the current prototype, but it was outside of the scope of the project.

‘NIST’s role was to uncover the fundamental connection between fluid dynamics and trace aerodynamic sampling and use our findings to help in the development of next-generation sampling approaches.’

Staymates concluded that private industry would have to develop a finished, marketable device.