Can traveling on airlines with liquids soon be possible?

confiscated items-wDepending on how frequently you travel, you may or may not have experienced the many inconveniences of going through airport security. Considering that I travel approximately 2200 miles to get to Villanova, I fall into the former category. One of these inconveniences is the restriction of carrying liquids onto commercial airlines. There are several techniques (e.g., nuclear magnetic spectroscopy) that could be employed to screen liquids as to whether or not they could be used as potential explosives. However, these techniques are usually too expensive or require too much time to be implemented in airports. Fortunately, a BBC article is reporting that German scientists have developed a quick technique that could be used to test for potentially dangerous liquids, thus making the ban on carrying liquids through airport security unnecessary. The proposed technique is called Hilbert spectroscopy and involves using a very wide spectrum of light to identify liquids that could be mixed to form an explosive or that have already been mixed. When baggage is X-rayed in airport security, measurements are usually confused by the packaging and other items inside the bag. The new technique manages to get around this problem by using the wider range of frequencies.

“The trick, they say, is to use a “nanoelectronic” device known as a Josephson junction. This allows the frequencies of light reflected from a sample to be quickly added up. This in turn provides a chemical “fingerprint” of the item being analyzed.”

The key advantage of using the Josephson junction is that it spans the low and high frequency ranges covered by significantly more expensive devices. The scientists responsible for the new technique have conceded that further developments are necessary to refine their approach but they are confident that the technique can be applied to security screening. If this technique is implemented, frequent travelers may be spared one less inconvenience. I, for one, would very much like to see this technique widely adopted.

Comments (4) Add yours ↓
  1. bmicele

    Interesting blog! I believe that implementing a safe way to allow passengers to bring desired liquids on a plane would be convenient because 3ounces is way too small. It is extremely frustrating when you forget that you have an expensive hand cream or drink in you carry on and then it gets tossed into the bin, never to be seen again. However, it is sad and scary that there are people who planned to carry the components of bombs, including liquid explosive ingredients and detonating devices, disguised as beverages, electronic devices or other common objects, onto a transatlantic plane and use it. Ohhh the world we live in.

    27 October 2009
  2. nharmuth

    I wonder what they do will all those confiscated items… “Over 1 million to date” – and I assume that’s strictly 1 airport. I hope they aren’t getting tossed into a landfill. I’ll be optimistic and think they’re either being recycled or donated to shelters.

    One can dream…

    27 October 2009
  3. nwilson

    I read an article that said most airports demand that employees throw away all the confiscated liquids. We’ll just have to hope it’s recycled.

    28 October 2009
  4. kmaghacut

    While it is great that airports are restricting passengers any way they can so that each flight is safe, nothing is 100% certain. I mean if something can be made to harm, no matter the method, it can and will be done by someone with loose screws. What I can’t help but think about is the extents that people might go through to let harmful liquids pass if something like Hilbert spectrometry is used. Such methods as concealing the liquids in containers that will confuse the instrument or masking the “harmful” liquids with other liquids. While I believe that something like using Hilbert spectrometry would be vastly beneficial for all, after blogging about this I feel as though the government will now have a close watch on me. Great …

    3 November 2009

Your Comment