PUBLISHED: 16:35 EST, 10 July 2012 | UPDATED: 16:37 EST, 10 July 2012
The latest scanners acquired by the U.S. government will be able detect the most minute traces of molecular discrepancies in both individuals’ bloodstream and carry on luggage from 50 meters away.
Using advanced laser technology, Picosecond Programmable Laser scanners will show traces of drugs, chemicals, weapons, and even food you recently digested at the push of a button.
A non-governmental company originally developed the technology but has since partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, implying that the scanners will likely be deployed throughout airports and other high-risk areas.
Portable: The front (left) and back (right) views of the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner show how small the device is which means that it could be used in a wide range of circumstances
An unidentified undersecretary at Homeland Security projected that the technology will be used within the next one to two years.
Though the essential process of detecting chemicals on individuals is not new, the significant speed and unmatched accuracy of these scanners makes them stand out against the rest of the market.
While the numbers seem outlandish, the new scanners are said to be ten million times faster and one million times more sensitive than the scanners used in airports and border patrols currently.
Gizmodo reports that the government subcontracted technology company In-Q-Tel to play the middleman between them and Genia Photonics, the company that has acquired 30 patents relating to the molecular-level scanners.
Cutting the queues: The laser scanners will be ten million faster than existing security scanning technology, which would presumably shorten lines at airports but also cause privacy issues
The company says that the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner can ‘penetrate clothing and many other organic materials and offers spectroscopic information, especially for materials that impact safety such as explosives and pharmacological substances.’
The scanner works by using lasers to evaluate the presence of any chemical traces on people or packages, and then that information is synched up to a computer attached to the small machine.
The process of scanning and downloading the information takes only picoseconds- so one-trillionth of a second- which means that security workers would be alerted to any alarming substances as you were approaching them.
The implications for this machine are both obvious and widespread, as it will easily lend speed and accuracy to the system, as well as an added element of nonprejudice.
Because it takes such a short amount of time to use the laser technology and interpret the data, security officials will not have to discriminate among suspicious passengers and will have time to use the technology on everyone.
The issue there, however, is that passengers will undoubtedly be upset that they are being searching without their knowledge and without any notification.
The size and portability of the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner means that in addition to airports and border points- which are expected to be the main areas of use- there is the possibility that the scanners may be put in police cars and subway stations.
The unattributed Gizmodo report, which is said to be written by a PhD student studying renewable energy solutions who chose to remain anonymous, highlights the fact that many of the unanswered questions relating to the government’s prospective implementation of the scanners and the privacy issues at hand have yet to be answered.