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Detecting Plastics

October 5, 2005

A new device for detecting plastic explosives could be coming to an airport or a public building near you.


Seeing through clothes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

You know those toy X-ray glasses that can let you see through people’s clothes? Well, believe me, they can’t. But engineer David Sheen and his colleagues at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a new detector that can. The device uses an array of antennae to scan people with safe, ultrahigh-frequency radio waves and produce a 3D image of whatever might be hidden beneath their clothes. Sheen says airports and other facilities could use the device to detect concealed weapons made from plastics, ceramics, or other non-metal materials.

DAVID SHEEN (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory):
It can detect items that can’t be detected with metal detectors. Because a lot of threats are not metallic.

But Sheen says the image is so good it raises issues of privacy. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.