A smarter scan

Scientists introduce a cheap and smart new device that gathers data in a flash

By Stephen Ornes, 09:35 AM February 5, 2013

Tiny patterns cut into this narrow copper strip filter microwaves. This new, simple technology makes it possible to take digital pictures faster, with less computer time required. And it could be used to help make airport scanners smarter, faster and cheaper. Credit: J. Hunt/Duke

A security scan has become as common to air travel as tickets, luggage and delays. Travelers line up, remove purses and belts, fill plastic bins with their belongings, and march slowly toward the full-body scanner. But that screening may one day speed up dramatically, thanks to the invention of a new system.

It relies on microwaves to image objects. Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation — types of energy that travel through space as a wave. Electromagnetic radiation includes ...

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