July 12, 2012
New Laser Scanner Scrutinizes Every Last Inch Of You
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Checking through the gate at the airport is about to get a lot more complicated for some people, and perhaps a lot easier for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), after a recent Gizmodo report revealed a new invention that allows laser scanners to read people at the molecular level.
The laser-based scanner, which can be used up to 164 feet away, could give the DHS a new powerful tool in finding potential trouble before it finds them, allowing them to move in and take out the would-be offender without disrupting airport lines.
The report stated the government was working with Genia Photonics and their partner In-Q-Tel to develop the new system, which could be implemented in airports and border crossings soon -- as early as 2013, according to Gizmodo -- helping security officials quickly identify explosives, dangerous chemicals, bio-weapons, and other illegal substances.
The scanner is said to be ten million times faster and one million times more sensitive than the current scanners used by the TSA. It can read everything from a person´s adrenaline levels, to traces of gunpowder, drug residue, and even what the person ate for breakfast, and the best part, according to the inventors, it can all be done without a physical search; it could also be used on multiple people at once, eliminating the need for random searches.
Called the Picosecond Programmable Laser, the device works by blasting the target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by a machine that determines what substances a person has been exposed to.
Genia Photonics, a 2009 start-up, holds 30 patents on laser technology designed for scanning. In forming a partnership with In-Q-Tel, which was employed by the CIA and Congress to build “a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators,” the firm was able to secure the right amount of funding and support to turn a dream into a reality.
Similar technologies have popped up from others, according to Gizmodo. In 2008, researchers at George Washington University developed a similar device; and the Russians have also developed molecular-based laser scanners. However, the uniqueness of the Genia Photonics´ technology is its compact size, making it easily transportable, unlike other similar devices.
On In-Q-Tel´s website, the company states that “an important benefit of Genia Photonics´ implementation as compared to existing solutions is that the entire synchronized laser system is comprised in a single, robust and alignment-free unit that may be easily transported for use in many environments.”
While such a device could be of significant use in the medical field, allowing doctors to scan for cancer in real time and monitor patients without the need for poking and prodding, it is likely to draw fire from privacy advocates.
Scanning technologies have been a much criticized subject for privacy activists over the years, who claim the tools are just another way for “Big Brother” to fix its eye on you.
Despite all the criticism, scanning devices are now about as mainstream as mobile phones, being utilized everywhere, from the grocery checkout line to the check-in line at the airport. And you can expect to see the new Picosecond Programmable Laser in airports across the country within the next few years, as the DHS looks to make air travel even safer for all of us.