Time for New Luggage, Perhaps?
The real problem arises on the next trip out. Traces of explosives would remain on the luggage. American airports increasingly screen travelers with "sniffer" machines that analyze chemical markers. Try explaining to the Homeland Security representative why your suitcase has a positive reading for explosives. One could always blame it on the French. Bon chance.
While explosives-detection technology may not yet rival the exquisite sensitivity of Daisy the Beagle's snout, it keeps improving. Systems like these work to identify the characteristic markers of explosives:
- X-ray diffraction technology is based on the detection of scatter patterns as X-rays interact with crystal lattice structures of material. (This is a slow method, so it is doubtful that it can be used for airplane luggage inspection.)
- Quadrupole resonance probes bags with radio frequency pulses to identify any chemical traces of explosives.
- Computed tomography uses an X-ray source that rotates around a bag, obtaining a large number of cross-sectional images that are integrated by computer, showing the densities of objects in the bag. The machine automatically triggers an alarm when objects with high densities, such as guns, are detected.
- Explosive trace detection uses gas chromatography to detect vapors and residues of explosives. That is why they swab your laptop. Detection is done by IR (infra-red) or Raman, particularly surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, which involves illuminating a filter with a laser beam and analyzing the spectrum.