Scanner approval may lift ban on taking liquids onto aircraft

Airports could allow passengers to take liquids over 100ml in volume as hand baggage from 2013 after approval of a new scanner.

The INSIGHT100 system uses a proprietary technology called partially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS), which was pioneered at the Science & Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire and which led to the creation of spin-out Cobalt Light Systems.

The advantage of the system lies in its ability to identify explosives unambiguously inside opaque bottles such as coloured plastic shampoo containers or green glass wine bottles.

Previous systems have led to large numbers of false alarms or to missing genuine threats. Cobalt claims it can screen individual bottles in less than five seconds to determine whether there is a security threat.

The scanner exceeded the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) standard for use at airports with an almost perfect detection capability and negligible false-alarm rate in unopened containers. The system is currently in trials at several major European airports.

Prof Pavel Matousek, the STFC’s inventor of the SORS technique, said: ‘Since the STFC made the breakthrough in discovering SORS a few years ago, we have worked closely with the team at Cobalt Light Systems to develop and refine this technology.’