Tired of setting off airport metal detectors with your change, belt buckle or pacemaker? GARY SETTLES, director of the Penn State Gas Dynamics Lab, has an invention for you. According to Settles, the human body produces a column of warm air that rises from the feet to the top of one's head, catching constantly shedding skin cells. Settles even has a catchy name for this phenomenon: the human thermal plume. He has created a portal, similar to a walk-through metal detector, that can detect the presence of microscopic amounts of explosive material in the plume.
Travelers passing through the detector will feel a rush of air as a fan blows the plume--and the dead skin cells with it--into a particle separator, which is able to detect the presence of bombmaking materials and other contraband sticking to the skin. Though the invention is thus far being designed only to detect bombs, Settles says his portals could also be used to detect illegal narcotics, smuggled money and evidence of chemical or biological weapons.
--By Michael Jackson/New York