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Scientists invented a device that could cut down queues at airports

Posted January 4, 2019

Travelling is an essential part of personal growth and education. It is also a lot of fun. But there are some parts of the travelling process that are less than perfect. For example, everyone hates those huge lines in airports when you are just waiting for security to go through your stuff and search you. Now a new invention from a team led by The Australian National University could lead us to the future of airport security screening without queues.

Lines in airports could be shorter if they could check your luggage for hazardous objects remotely. Image credit: Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia

Scientists have invented a small device that could be used in ultra-sensitive cameras for security screening. Such cameras could essentially remove the need for extensive security checks in airports. They could also be used in other applications, such as sensors for driverless vehicles. Scientists already developed a proof-of-concept prototype device and got a provisional patent. The centre of this device is metasurfaces, which can control the direction of electromagnetic waves and allow this complex structure to complete highly advanced sensing functions.

Essentially, this sensor can sense the environment that is surrounding it. In other words, it is not directional. Previously multiple sensors had to be installed pointing at multiple different directions, but this one senses its surroundings from all directions. However, probably the most promising application for this technology would be super-sensitive cameras for security systems at airports.

Dr Mingkai Liu with the prototype device. Image credit: ANU

Dr Mingkai Liu with the prototype device. Image credit: ANU

Although these cameras could not recognize people’s faces, they could detect various dangerous objects in people’s luggage and pockets, such as chemicals, suspect devices, sharp things and so on. Device would be tuneable, which would make it versatile and yet perfectly fitting for a specific application.

Another area, where it could be useful, is driverless cars. Here small sensing devices could detect obstacles even in extreme weather conditions. Professor Ilya Shadrivov, the leader of the microwave and terahertz group at the Nonlinear Physics Centre, said: “We are very interested in realising the concept at other frequency bands, including terahertz and even optical frequencies. We also hope to collaborate with industrial partners to explore the full potential of this concept in practical applications”. Of course, it will still take years of development until this device reaches production.

Nowadays huge queues in airports form because security is checking your luggage and your clothing for hidden dangerous objects. But if they could check you on your way to security, it would not require you waiting. And the shorter the lines, the happier the traveller.


Source: The Australian National University

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