Depending 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.