A FIRM producing world-leading anti-terrorism technology has won European Union (EU) approval that could see its anti-explosives scanner installed in airports across Europe from next year.

Kromek, based at NETPark, near Sedgefield, County Durham, has received official EU certification to provide colour x-ray liquid detection systems to European airports.

Kromek announced last year that it had pioneered an airport scanner capable of identifying liquids in bottles, including explosives, alcohol and narcotics, in less than 20 seconds.

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New laws mean many EU airports will have to introduce liquid scanning facilities by April next year, with all airports required to comply by April 2013, ahead of a complete end to the ban on carrying liquids.

The European Civil Aviation Conference approval means all EU airports can now buy and implement Kromek’s scanner, one of the most advanced on the market.

Kromek’s chief executive Arnab Basu said: “It puts us in a very strong position.

“To be named by EU regulators as an authorised provider of a revolutionary solution to one of the greatest threats to civil aviation currently is a major moment in Kromek’s history.”

It is another important milestone for the firm, which started life as a two-man spinout from Durham University in 2003 and now employs 55 staff in County Durham as well as ten in the US, after buying Californian imaging detector firm Nova R&D Inc in June.

Dr Basu said: “The approval is very important. Although we always believed we would get it, until you actually do you don’t know.

“There are very rigorous, well thought-out, well-devised tests that are carried out.

“These certifications are not given out lightly and nor should they be.

“It is a great achievement from the perspective of the people who work at Kromek for turning university research in the late Nineties to technology with global implications.”

Dr Basu said a number of airports had already made inquiries about the device.

He said: “Several of them have already introduced official tenders and official requirements for such systems and we are part of several of those processes.”

What sets Kromek’s device apart is the fact it uses colour x-ray technology, which Dr Basu said gave the machine an advantage in a similar way to seeing in colour helps the human eye to differentiate between substances.

He said: “If x-ray machines are given the ability to see in colour then they can make decisions very quickly as to whether something is explosive or not. It gives you that extra level of information.”

From April, passengers will be able to carry liquid items bought in transit when transferring between flights, provided the appropriate screening measures are in place By April 2013, the ban will be lifted completely, allowing the carriage of liquids on all flights across Europe.

Kromek, formerly known as Durham Scientific Crystals, also works on medical imaging and the use of x-ray imaging for industrial inspection purposes, but moved into the security market after the threat from liquid, aerosol and gel-based explosives became apparent following the discovery of a plot to blow up transatlantic flights in 2006.

Dr Basu added: “Although Kromek had not set out to produce such equipment, we were quick to realise with our capabilities we had the versatility to produce a solution for this market need.”