ANN ARBOR, Mich., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Scanners using terahertz waves would ensure privacy during security screenings but detect explosives or other weapons, engineers in Michigan said.
Terahertz waves can detect the chemical signature of explosives and the metal and plastic in guns, said engineers at Advanced Photonix Inc., an Ann Arbor firm working on new identification technology.
Unlike scanners using X-rays and millimeter waves, a terahertz scanner identifies material without producing a high-definition image of a traveler's body, Richard Kurtz, the company's chairman, told the Detroit News in a story published Monday.
When hit by a terahertz wave, materials bounce back a return wave with a unique signature.
A terahertz scan would have detected the chemical explosive allegedly used by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the attempted Christmas day bombing of a jet en route to Detroit from Amsterdam, Kurtz said.
The company's terahertz technology has been used to scan NASA's space shuttle for structural integrity and to scan time-release capsules for the pharmaceutical industry.