Award for laser firm that ‘can see liquids inside objects’
Thursday 03 July 2014
A company whose technology could revolutionise airport security by identifying the chemical composition of a solid or liquid inside a container without opening it has won the top prize in British engineering.
Cobalt Light Systems has been awarded the £50,000 MacRobert Award by the Royal Academy of Engineering, beating two much larger firms, Rolls-Royce and QinetiQ.
The small Oxfordshire-based company has pioneered a technique to analyse the chemical composition of a substance behind virtually any barrier, including skin, within seconds.
Cobalt’s Insight100 machine has already been deployed this year by 65 European airports including Heathrow and Gatwick as a liquid scanner.
The hope is it could spell the end of the liquids ban for air travellers’ hand luggage, if the technology is given the green light by European regulators.
Paul Loeffen, the chief executive, said there were many other commercial possibilities. “It is a generalised techology that has many applications,” he said.
Research has begun on “non-invasive” tests for breast cancer and osteoporosis, and it could also be deployed for detecting illegal drugs and counterfeit goods and analysing food.
The techology uses Raman spectroscopy, which shines a laser to analyse the wavelengths from molecules within an object, and combines it with complex algorithms to distinguish between the container and its contents. “You can do these chemical analyses without a direct line of sight,” explained Mr Loeffen.
The MacRobert Award judges said Cobalt is “on the cusp of explosive growth, with the potential to create three or four multi-million pound businesses from their single innovation”.
Cobalt launched in 2008 as a spin-off from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover are past winners of the MacRobert Award, which seeks to identify “outstanding innovation with proven commercial promise and tangible societal benefit”.
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 3 How much sex should I be having?
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 Betting company 'refuse to pay' after student wins £1,000 from 50p bet on Roger Federer
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, reveals new look on Annie Leibovitz shot Vanity Fair cover
Russian military jets and US destroyer clash in Black Sea 'posing danger to stability'
Ed Miliband returns to the backbenches but it's all a bit awkward as he tries to avoid eye-contact with fellow Labour MPs
Photographer who performed naked shoot in China's Forbidden City sparks outrage
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...
£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...
£25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...