[Dewayne-Net] Hi-tech rays to aid terror fight

Dewayne Hendricks dewayne at warpspeed.com
Thu Jul 8 04:53:34 PDT 2004

Hi-tech rays to aid terror fight

A new way of identifying metal and explosives could provide a valuable
tool in the fight against terrorism.
Airport security has become big business following the terrorist
attacks in the US.

A system that detects both metal and non-metallic weapons using
terahertz light has been developed by technology firm TeraView.

It could make passenger screening at airports more effective and
quicker, say experts.

Safe to humans

Dr Ruth Woodward, an independent scientific adviser for terahertz
consultancy firm HT Consultants, said the technology could provide one
of the most innovative ways of dealing with security threats.

"It presents a positive step forward, although the economic benefits
are yet to be determined," she told BBC News Online.

Terahertz light sits between microwave and infrared on the
electro-magnetic spectrum.

It has a number of properties that can be harnessed to screen

Unlike X-ray, it is perfectly safe to use on people. It can pass
through clothing, paper and plastics to detect metal, ceramic or
plastic weapons.

And it can identify explosives by reading their characteristic spectral

Magic wand

TeraView is a firm looking at ways of exploiting terahertz light.

It is developing a handheld security wand that could be used by airport
security guards to pass over the body of passengers.

It is expected that the product will be available for commercial use
within two years, following a trial at an as yet unspecified airport.
The firm is partnering with detection equipment firm Smiths Detection
on the project.

The terahertz 'wand' will be attached to a box which will bleep when
suspicious objects are found.

Eventually the firm also hopes to make a walk-through portal that uses
the same techniques as the wand to scan passengers.

"The big challenge for airports is to keep the passengers happy and
provide a high level of security," said Dr Mike Kemp, the
vice-president of TeraView.

"What we are trying to do with terahertz light is create something that
is more automatic and reduces the dependence on the sharp-eyed
operator," he said.

Turning to technology

The technology is not likely to replace current methods of scanning,
rather will sit alongside them, he explained.

And there is no substitute for old-fashioned human alertness.

"Any technology, whether it is new or old, is only there to complement
commonsense," said Dr Woodward.

Following the September 11 attacks, airport security has taken on a
new-found urgency.

"Many companies are looking at new technologies that can offer
substantially increased security," said Chris Yates, aviation security
editor at Jane's Transport.

A system that blows air at passengers to detect explosives is under
trial at Terminal One of Manchester airport.

And several US airports are testing technology that can virtually
undress passengers to detect any suspicious items.

This has caused uproar from civil liberty organisations in the US and
led to some modification to allow passengers a degree of modesty.

"Basically the most sensitive areas of the body have been blocked out,"
said Mr Yates.

Terahertz light is the last unexplored frontier of the radio wave and
light spectrum. and can be also be utilised in a variety of ways such
as medical imaging.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/07/08 08:05:37 GMT

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