PIONEERING technology firm Kromek has been given the green light to sell scanners which can detect explosives to airports across Europe.
The County Durham firm has spent years developing devices which use X-rays to reveal whether a bottle of liquid in a traveller’s luggage is gin, mineral water or any one of a number of high explosives. It even checks barcodes to see whether the contents match the label.
The technology will not only help to prevent terrorists blowing up airlines but mean an end to passengers facing delays and having to ditch their drinks and shampoo before going through airport security gates.
And for Kromek, one of few companies in the world working on the technology, the approval by the EU to sell its Bottle Scanner machine is an important step towards winning contracts worth millions of pounds.
Chief executive Arnab Basu, said: “It’s a significant milestone for Kromek as the approved listing is vindication that colour X-ray detection has been proven.
“The next generation of X-ray technology has arrived, with a market ready machine that can detect liquid threats.
“Kromek’s revolutionary technology signals a new era in colour X-ray detection, and a market-changing development in aviation security.
“The company is introducing to the sector a truly pioneering form of detection, which has been likened to the advent of colour TV, from black and white, in terms of significance and market potential.”
The ban on liquids in hand luggage was imposed in August 2006 after police uncovered a plot to smuggle explosives on to planes using drinks containers.
According to EU plans, by April 2011 airports must have appropriate devices in place to scan liquids bought in transit. By April 2013, the ban on liquids on flights across Europe will be lifted.
The Durham University spin-out company has tendered for contracts in the Middle East and Far East and is now preparing to tender for contracts in Europe which it hopes will boost its revenues, currently less than £1m, by the millions and Basu said is certain will mean it makes its first profit within two years.
The firm focuses on technology which is used to detect cancer, on industrial X-ray technology and recently won a £2.4m contract with the US government for equipment which detects emissions from nuclear material.
The seven-year-old firm has attracted millions of pounds of investment, received and this year moved into a new £10m headquarters at Netpark, near Sedgefield.
“To be named by EU regulators as an authorised provider of a revolutionary solution to one of the greatest threats to civil aviation currently is a major moment in Kromek’s history," added Mr Basu.
“The threat from Liquid, Aerosol and Gel (LAG) based explosives became apparent in August 2006 following discovery of a plot to use such devices aboard multiple transatlantic flights.
“Although Kromek had not set out to produce such equipment we were quick to realise with our capabilities we had the versatility to produce a solution.”
He added: “The next year and beyond is extremely exciting for us. Kromek will continue to see strong growth as our solutions capture the imagination. Our groundbreaking technology not only provides products to the airline security market but has the opportunity for development into a range of products for many highly lucrative markets such as medical and industrial fields, where we are already beginning to get commercial traction”.