After terrorists tried to fly with liquid explosives back in 2006, air travelers have been limited to bringing only small bottles onto planes. But that inconvenience could soon be gone if Cobalt's new laser scanners start appearing at airport security checkpoints.
While equipment that can determine exactly what materials are inside a bottle have existed for years, they're not exactly fast. And using them to analyse every single bottle that passes through airport security would create even more delays. But Cobalt's new Insight100 scanner uses near-infrared lasers and a technique called spatially offset raman spectroscopy to size up a bottle's contents in just five seconds.
Basically a laser is fired into the liquid, gel, or powder contents of a container, and the light that bounces back is measured for shifts in its wavelength. Since every chemical creates a unique shift, the Insight100 can accurately determine the contents of a bottle or container, with just 0.5 percent false positives. It was recently approved by European flight safety agencies, and might be appearing in British airports as soon as 2013. [Cobalt via NewScientist]