A REVOLUTIONARY bottle scanner for detecting liquid explosives will go into operation for the first time today when it is installed at a North-East airport.

The device developed by Kromek has been installed at Durham Tees Valley Airport for an operational trial, the first time it will be used on a day-to-day basis by an airport.

The scanner can identify the presence of dangerous liquids without the need to actually open the container or handle the material inside within 20 seconds.

It follows the announcement in October last year that Kromek, based at NETPark, near Sedgefield, County Durham, has received official EU certification to provide colour x-ray liquid detection systems to European airports.

New laws mean passengers using UK airports are expected to be able to carry liquid items bought in transit when transferring between flights from the Autumn, provided the appropriate screening measures are in place.

All EU airports will be required to comply by April 2013, ahead of a complete end to the ban on carrying liquids.

Kromek's chief executive Arnab Basu said he was pleased to be working with the firm's nearest airport.

Dr Basu said: "We are working with a number of international airports but clearly having such a close partnership definitely helps and it is a very positive step that two companies based in the region are able to do business and help each other.

"It is quite encouraging for ourselves to see a local airport taking that initiative.

"Durham Tees Valley has taken a strong and definitive step towards the lifting of the restrictions."

Kromek announced in 2009 that it had pioneered the airport scanner capable of identifying liquids in bottles, including explosives, alcohol and narcotics.

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.

The scanner is able to check any item against the 'spectral signature' of all internationally-recognised dangerous materials, providing a simple 'pass' or 'fail' reading.

Durham Tees Valley Airport manager Shaun Woods said:" Up to now we have had to adopt checking measures which involve physically opening a container in order to carry out the checks, which is both time-consuming and can in itself involve safety considerations for security staff carrying out the examinations.

"The scanner developed by Kromek is safe, easy to use, quick and requires no physical sampling.

"When I first went to see the system in operation at Kromek's headquarters at NetPark I was tremendously impressed and I am delighted that we have the opportunity to work with a locally-based company which really is a world leader in its field."

The firm formerly known as Durham Scientific Crystals, started life as a two-man spin out 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 a year ago.

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.