UV Lights Can Scan for Explosives in Baggage

 - March 24, 2014, 2:18 PM

Scientists at the University of Florida in Gainesville have developed an airport baggage scanner that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to help uncover explosives in checked airline baggage. The new system compares the specific colors of UV light absorbed as bags pass beneath the scanner along the conveyor belt. The new technology works with existing airport X-ray conveyor belts and, according to its developer, is able to scan 100 percent of luggage for explosives with 95-percent accuracy.

Different types of explosives absorb varying amounts of UV light. The system quickly matches light absorption levels against an explosives database and sounds an alarm when it recognizes something suspicious. The goal of the new system is to improve airport security screening without burdening passengers with additional delays at boarding time.

Although the Transportation Security Administration already X-rays all checked bags before departure, only about 5percent are randomly selected for additional screening for explosives. Manually scanning just that 5 percent, however, significantly slows boarding when people are pulled out of line.