Insight100 lets you keep shampoo in your carry-on

Summary:A UK-based company has developed a scanning device that can identify the contents of a liquid bottle in a matter of seconds.

We all know the routine at the airport: only liquids in 3 ounce bottles packaged in a 1 quart-size clear plastic bag. Everything else gets tossed.

But that all might change thanks to a new technology.

Across the pond, European authorities are conducting airport testings of a device called Insight100. The machine, developed by the company Cobalt Light Systems, is about the size of a microwave oven and can identify the contents of a bottle in a matter of seconds using a technique called Raman spectroscopy.

Discover reports:

"A laser sends pulses into the container; a camera then captures those photons that managed to slip past the plastic, interact with the molecules in the liquid, and drift back out. Cobalt scientists have tailored their device to recognize the telltale patterns of scattered light associated with all the substances on the European Union’s threat list. When one of these materials, such as hydrogen peroxide or nitric acid, turns up, the Insight100’s screen flashes red. Water, shampoo, and that duty-free bottle of gin generate a green light."

And laboratory work shows a mere 0.5 percent of false positives.

But don't pack your 16 ounce liquid materials just yet. There will be ongoing tests for quite some time in European airports before it reaches the U.S.

The Smart Scanner That May Put Shampoo Back Into Your Carry-on  [Discover]

Photo via flickr/Ben Popcken

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Full Bio

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