British researchers have developed a system that can remotely and instantaneously detect the slightest amounts of explosives in cars or packages.
The device, developed by Loughborough University professor John Tyrer, could offer a major breakthrough in fighting terrorism, as it can operate automatically across large areas and without the knowledge of those people being scanned.
“Never has there been a more urgent need to have technology in place that can accurately and remotely identify cargo, vehicles and people that have been in contact with explosives,” said Professor Tyrer.
“Sadly it seems inevitable now that we are going to see more and more terrorist attacks like those we recently witnessed in Brussels. Had our device been in operation at Brussels Airport I firmly believe those terrorists would have been identified and prevented from entering the terminal.”
Dubbed ExDtect, the device is essentially a laser-based CCTV camera that can detect minute amounts of explosives invisible to the naked eye. Professor Tyrer, who is based at the Loughborough University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering worked on the device together with his colleagues from the Department of Chemistry.
The non-invasive system can remotely scan vehicles, cargo, as well as crowded areas such as airports, train stations and sport stadiums. If it detects anything suspicious, it automatically alerts operators and pinpoints the location of the find. As the whole system functions completely automatically, it rules out human error.
“When you handle an explosive, the chemicals and various constituent components present leave traces on your fingers and clothes and are transmitted to anything you touch,” Professor Tyrer explained. “Using some of the laser technology that we have invented here at Loughborough over the past few years, we have been able to create a device that can see the explosives and reject all other materials.
The technology will soon be trialled in cooperation with an international courier. The Loughborough team said discussions are already taking place with several other international organisations, which had expressed interest in the technology.