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EU to lift flight ban on carry-on liquids

Duty Free shop owners rejoice

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The European Union has certified a liquid-detection security scanner that will allow that £20 1.75 liter bottle of Bombay Sapphire you bought at the Duty Free shop to come aboard your flight in your carry-on bag.

"The next generation of X-ray technology has arrived, with a market-ready machine that can detect liquid threats," said Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek, the company that created the epochal scanner, when announcing the EU decision on Monday.

The technology that will usher in this new era of common sense and liquid refreshment is the Kromek Bottle Scanner, which can analyze the contents of containers ranging from 80ml to 2000ml (2.7 ounces to 2.1 quarts).

Duty-free purchases will be scannable, allowable, and totable beginning in April 2011 — provided, of course, that the airport has a Bottle Scanner or two on hand. "By April 2013," the announcement notes, "the ban will be lifted completely, allowing the carriage of liquids on flights across Europe."

And no, you won't have to open up your precious bottle of botanically enhanced neutral spirit, nor waste a precious drop. The Bottle Scanner requires no sample of the liquid it's analyzing, it merely scans the container — glass, metal, or plastic — using a multi-spectral x-ray beam, and compares the liquid's spectral fingerprint with items in its "easily upgradeable database".

Also, you needn't worry about some underpaid, over-hassled, grumpy airport-security drone misinterpreting the Bottle Scanner's results. The machine is simple to use and its decisions are binary: "pass", and you're happily aboard; "fail", and it'll be a long night in a dank, windowless basement room with one naked lightbulb hanging from a slowly swinging wire.

After all, one can't be too careful. According to 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."

The Bottle Scanner is here to eliminate that threat: "It is a major step forward in the fight against global terrorism," says Basu, "where liquid is increasingly becoming a common tool for terrorist use and we are proud to be able to contribute to the national security."

And, more importantly to some, the EU's certification of this liquid-scanning technology will almost certainly spike liquor sales in Duty Free shops, and raise the per-quid calibre of hooch consumed by European frequent fliers. ®

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