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Security

Welsh researchers shine a light on concealed items

05 December 2018
Tests began today at Cardiff Airport of a new terahertz walkthrough scanner developed by local company Sequestim. Source: Sequestim Ltd

Cardiff Airport in the UK is hosting trials of a new terahertz-based passenger scanner on 4–7 December 2018.

The purpose of the trial is for industry, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, the Civil Aviation Authority, and other UK government bodies (including Border Force) to see the technology in action.

The walkthrough scanner is the result of a collaboration between Sequestim Ltd and Cardiff University scientists. Sequestim (a joint venture between Cardiff University and QMC Instruments Ltd) intends to manufacture the scanner in Wales.

Machine learning allows the scanner to distinguish between threats and non-threats. The scanner uses the human body as a source of ‘light’, in contrast with existing scanners that process reflected and scattered millimetre waves. With the new walkthrough scanner, passengers would not need to divest clothing or remove personal items.

Originally built to study how stars are born from clouds of gas and dust, the passive terahertz imaging technology used in the scanner is so sensitive that it can see a 100 W light bulb at a distance of 500,000 miles.

With machine learning, the scanner tells the difference between non-threat and prohibited items. Any concealed items show up as a shadow, because heat from a human body acts like a light bulb for the scanner.

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