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Wine Lover’s Airport Scanner Analyzes Liquids

February 10, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging
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A scientist who puts wine at the top of his list of principal research interests is working on an MR scanner that may make it possible for travelers to carry full bottles of shampoo and water onto airplanes again.

In fact, the technology behind this potential boon to the flying public started as a way to test wine.

Matthew Augustine, PhD, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of California, Davis, is working on a prototype airport scanner to analyze what’s inside bottles and cans without opening them.

Dr. Augustine originally created a machine that can check sealed bottles of wine for spoilage. The results of that work were patented in 2002 and are being commercialized by a company called Wine Scanner, Inc. Magnetic resonance reveals the chemical composition of the wine, including the presence of compounds that ruin the taste.

After the foiled 2006 terrorist plot that was to have involved liquid explosives aboard transatlantic airliners, Dr. Augustine started reworking his technology to identify other liquids as well. As he told a UC Davis News Service writer:

I’m a tinkerer. I like to build stuff.

Early tests are promising, but there are a number of challenges. Scanners must be relatively small and easy to use, and they must display results instantly. They must be able to analyze a tremendously wide range of liquids and gels. They must be capable of scanning containers of various shapes, materials, and sizes, from lipstick tubes to jumbo water bottles.

One challenge involves the frequency of the radio waves. High-frequency waves yield better information about chemical composition but can’t penetrate metal. Low-frequency waves can “see” through a soda can or metal water bottle but provide inferior data.

I think I speak for everyone who has boarded in airplane within the past five years when I say: Dr. Augustine, we’re all rooting for you.

Related seminar: CT/MRI of the Abdomen and Pelvis

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