When it comes to air travel, most customers want to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, long security lines are a big barrier to smooth travel.
Now scientists at the University of Florida in Gainesville have developed a new detection system that could improve safety in airports and on flights without extra security lines.
The detection system is the first to use ultraviolet light to identify traces of dangerous explosives like TNT.
“This is an instrument which measures the difference in the reflectivity between two materials,” said Rolf Hummel, a materials research scientist at the University of Florida.
All bags that undergo TSA screening currently go through a standard X-ray conveyor belt. Currently, security agents then perform additional screening on about 5 percent of bags. This additional step adds time on security lines for those selected for additional screening, but subjects only a small percentage of bags to additional scrutiny.
The new technology works with the existing X-ray conveyor belt, and is able to scan 100 percent of the luggage for explosives without the extra step of removing them for further inspection.
Ultraviolet light shines onto the luggage moving on the X-ray belt. Traces of explosives absorb specific colors of UV light. The system then provides a fingerprint of the material and compares it to known explosives in a database.
The system beeps when it finds a match, and is 95% accurate in identifying explosives.
“Something comes in, we look at the surface. We compare that to a database, see if there’s anything that’s matching. If there is, then we give a warning,” said Thierry Dubroca, a materials research scientist at the University of Florida.
Dubroca said, “The main difference is this system works automatically, that means you don’t need an operator to separate you from the line.”
The device detects explosive residue in the range of micrograms. So far, researchers haven’t found any known type of explosive that the device cannot detect.
The team is now helping to develop this technology into a product that could be used in airports in the future.
Get Inside the Science:
Rolf Hummel, University of Florida
Thierry Dubroca, University of Florida