TRIALS of an airport security scanner which could lead to the restrictions on liquids in hand luggage being lifted will begin in the North-East this month.
Newcastle International Airport will conduct the trial of liquid scanning equipment developed by Kromek, of NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham.
The scanner can see through bottles and other containers to detect the presence of explosive liquids. It operates by shining an x-ray through the container to give a “spectral signature” reading
for the image recorded.
The machine is programmed to distinguish between harmless liquids, such as water and alcohol, and potentially explosive substances, such as hydrogen peroxide.
If it proves successful, it could see the lifting of the ban on liquids being carried by passengers onto flights from British airports.
The Department for Transport (DfT) imposed the restriction at short notice amid fears of terrorist plans to blow up trans-Atlantic flights, in August 2006.
It is believed to have cost the British aviation industry more than £100m in security costs, with extra screening staff employed, while many passengers still fall foul of the ban, having bottles of
alcohol, toiletries and perfumes confiscated before they board flights.
Newcastle Airport’s security staff confiscate and destroy an average 750 bottles and other containers per day.
Passengers are limited to carrying containers in resealable clear plastic bags, of no more than 100ml in content.
An airport spokesperson said the scanner may initially be used to check bottles delivered to duty-free shops, before being tested in the customs search area. If successful, it could be introduced
at security checkpoints.
Research scientists from Durham University’s physics department are behind the scanner’s development at Kromek.
Formerly Durham Scientific Crystals, the company last year announced a rebrand after raising £1.6m, including a £250,000 research grant, to develop the scanner.
Chief executive Dr Arnab Basu described the development as a “quick, cost-effective method of monitoring product quality” for uses in various industries.
The DfT hopes to lift the liquid ban next year, after checking the test results.