"The TSA is interested in evaluating market-ready systems and is inviting voluntary participation from sources that offer these systems to support a laboratory demonstration and trial," the agency said. "The advanced technology carry-on screening system must currently have the ability to locate and identify potential metallic threats. In addition, the system must have the capability to detect explosive compounds or must be upgradeable to implement this functionality."
Last month, the Homeland Security Department's new chief of science and technology, retired Navy Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, told lawmakers he was accelerating efforts to find technology to prevent liquid explosives from being brought on planes, including offering companies special liability protections for their devices.
In August, authorities in London disrupted an alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 planes in mid-flight from the United Kingdom to the United States using liquid explosive compounds brought on board in carry-on luggage. The plot sent shock waves through the U.S. aviation community, prompting TSA to ban almost all liquids and gels from being carried aboard planes. The ban has subsequently been relaxed but not fully lifted.
TSA's search is not exclusively for technology that can detect liquid explosives. Instead, the agency is seeking equipment that uses X-ray scans and does not need additional development.
"The purpose of this demonstration/evaluation is to examine technologies that are currently available and thus time constraints do not allow for evaluation at a later time," the agency said. The equipment also must not expose any human body parts.
The agency has asked interested companies to submit proposals for their technology. After a review of the proposals, TSA plans to do a five-day test of promising technology at its headquarters in Arlington, Va.
"The advanced technology carry-on screening system may include options beyond the currently fielded X-Ray equipment which provide two-dimensional top-down view. These options should provide the user with additional information to help differentiate between threats and non-threats," the agency wrote.