Portable device for airports for the detection of hazardous substances

TEM Messtechnik GmbH contributes by the development of a special fiber stretcher and associated control electronics to avoid conventional, adjustment-sensitive free-beam delay paths in a completely fiber-coupled spectrometer.


The prevented bomb attacks to airplanes have revealed security gaps in the existing security control of flight passengers and their luggage. Until now it is very easy to smuggle explosive dangerous goods appearing as harmless liquids in conventional shampoo or beverage bottles through the control. Though sufficient to damage airplanes, the existing security controls cannot detect these liquids remotely. In addition to that, x-ray radiation is not suitable for checking persons as it is only allowed for medical purposes.


For closing this security gap, new and mobile detection methods are necessary, which have to be non-destructive, contact-free and not dangerous for people, but sensitive to traces of different dangerous goods.Usually, modern detectors are portable, hand-held, compact measuring devices, which may be produced at low cost compared to the existing detector systems.

Technical implementation

A promising candidate for the detection of dangerous substances is terahertz spectroscopy. It uses the interaction of electromagnetic field in the terahertz frequency range with matter and returns a spectroscopic fingerprint. Special advantages of the THz radiation are its innocuousness for man and the transparency of clothes and packaging materials. It should be possible to detect and analyze explosive substances even in closed bottles. The THz measuring technique is just at the beginning of development. For this is the reason, until now THz spectrometers are expensive, big and sensitive laboratory equipment, which are fixed to one place and need sensitive adjustment. Objects are mostly examined in transmission. So this is not a practical method for use in the security area.The objective of this project is to develop a demonstrator of the word wide first hand-held THz spectrometer. Another aim is to expand a material data base with reference spectra of explosive liquids.

Handheld THz Spectrometer, Photo: Collaborative partner "Handheld" by Menlo System GmbH, SiFO Lizenz
Handheld THz Spectrometer, Photo: Collaborative partner "Handheld" by Menlo System GmbH, SiFO Lizenz

Funding ID: 13N9517

Project duration: 01.01.2008 – 31.12.2010

Keywords: explosive liquids, explosive substance detection, spectroscopic detection, terahertz´-spectroscopy, femto-second laser, fast photoconductor, photoconductive antennas

Contacts at TEM Messtechnik

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Sven Lübbecke /
Development software, electronics, mechanics /
+49 (0) 511 – 510896 – 33 /

Dr. Thomas  Müller-Wirts /
Development electronics, software, optics, mechanics /
+49 (0) 511 – 510896 – 31 /