Heathrow Airport is spending £50m on computed tomography (CT) scanners, which should mean travellers no longer have to remove liquids and laptops from their carry-on bags during security checks.
The plan is to have the scanners in place in every UK terminal by 2022.
Heathrow has been trialling the technology since 2017 with the Department of Transport but warns the rollout will take time. The airport is making no specific claims but the tech has the potential to help reduce queuing and waiting times at security while people dig around in bags.
Chief operating officer Chris Garton said: "This cutting-edge kit will not only keep the airport safe with the latest technology, but will mean that our future passengers can keep their focus on getting on with their journeys and less time preparing for security screening."
Heathrow is bigging up the reduction in single-use plastic – no more clear bags full of miniature toothpaste and shampoo bottles – although we're not hearing Friends of the Earth cheering this revolutionary reduction in the environmental impact of flying. The airport also said the move to CT scanners will "prepare the hub airport for the additional capacity that will be unlocked with Heathrow's expansion".
The scanners will allow security staff to rotate and reposition images of bags.
We've asked the airport if the tech will mean an end to the daft liquids rule – only 100ml per container up to a 1,000ml limit – and will update if we hear back.
The CT scanners are already in use in the US at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago's O'Hare. 300 will be distributed by 2020, according to the US Transportation Security Administration.
CT scanners were invented by a team of engineers at EMI Labs led by Godfrey Hounsfield and have been in use in medicine since the mid '70s. The research was funded, indirectly, by the pile of cash EMI earned flogging Beatles records.
Hounsfield, who never got a degree, won a Nobel prize for his work in 1979 along with Allan Cormack.
Apart from being knighted, he also gave his name to a unit of scientific measurement – the Hounsfield scale is used to measure radiodensity. ®