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Next-Gen Liquid Scanner Undergoes Airport Testing

October 14, 2010

Homeland security officials demonstrated a “potential next-generation” liquid and gel scanner on Wednesday that could allow airline passengers to once again bring items like shampoo bottles and carbonated beverages with them during their flights.

Developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the Magnetic Vision Bottled Liquid Scanner, or MagViz BLS, was put to the test at the Albuquerque International Sunport Wednesday morning. According to a LANL press release, the device employs “ultra-low-field nuclear magnetic resonance technology for the checkpoint detection of liquid explosives.”

Associated Press (AP) writer Susan Montoya Bryan, who was in attendance at the event, said that “everything from bottled water and champagne to shampoo and pink liquid laxatives were scanned to make sure explosives weren’t hiding inside.”

“The device, about the size of a small refrigerator, uses magnetic resonance to read the liquids’ molecular makeup, even when the substances are in metal containers,” she added. “Within 15 seconds, a light on top of the simple-looking metal box flashes red or green, depending on whether there’s danger”¦ The device is so sensitive it can tell the difference between red and white wine, and between different types of soda.”

The MagViz Bottle Liquid Scanner “distinguishes potential-threat liquids from the harmless shampoos and sodas a regular traveler might take aboard an aircraft,” the LANL said in a statement, adding that nearly all liquids are limited to one-container per person per item, with containers being no larger than 3.4 ounces in size.

According to Bryan, the device is still several years from actually being utilized in American airports. Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency Program (HSARPA)  Manager Stephen Surko told the AP that the LANL must still reach a deal with a manufacturer for the MagViz, and will then have to submit the machines for testing and certification.

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