Though "strip-search" backscatter X-ray machines were pulled from US airports for privacy reasons, the tech has found a new home in the MINI Z portable scanner. Made by American Science and Engineering (AS&E), it displays see-through images on a Windows tablet PC from low-intensity backscatter X-rays that don't penetrate deeply into organic tissue. The company said it took seven years of research to shrink the X-ray tubes enough to create a handheld device that uses only 10 watts of power (see a simulation here or the video below). Scanning an object several times will even increase the detail. Backscatter X-rays don't penetrate deep into organic tissue, so the MINI Z is (theoretically) safe for operators and bystanders -- but it's not designed to scan humans anyway. Instead, the US military plans to put it to use searching for guns, explosives, drugs and organic materials. Its portable nature also makes it ideal for scanning vehicles, drug labs and hand baggage, to name a few scenarios -- so don't be surprised to see it at a customs checkpoint or concert near you.
[Image credit: AS&E]