Manchester scientists have invented an X-ray camera which they say could detect bombs and drugs at airports.
Physicists say the device could replace bulky X-ray equipment – and could revolutionise airport security and medical scanning.
The camera system, invented by Manchester University physics professor Robert Cernik, can take real-time, full-colour X-ray footage of people and objects.
They say it could also be used to take geographical images and to check for cracks and flaws in buildings and aircraft.
Existing X-ray technology had previously needed a light-producing box known as a synchrotron, but the Manchester team say their camera does not require the device and can create 3D images much faster than existing technology.
Staff at the university, who are now seeking private companies to take their invention forward, say they are satisfied their lab-based device could now be transferred to the outside world.
Professor Cernik said: “The fact that we can now use this technology in a laboratory setting is a substantial step forward.
“Current imaging systems such as CAT scanners do not use all the information contained in the X-ray beam.
“We can use all the wavelengths present to give a colour X-ray image in a number of ways.”
It can also identify the chemical composition of scanned objects – allowing operators to detect cocaine or semtex inside a bulky suitcase or distinguish between healthy and abnormal tissue in the body.